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Terror Trial Won't Be Televised

Katie Leung poses at the premiere of "The Bourne Ultimatum" in London on Aug. 15.
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A federal judge has denied a request by Court TV to televise the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, the first person indicted in connection with the Sept. 11 attacks on America.

U.S. District Court Judge Leonie Brinkema rejected the bid, partially supported by Moussaoui, who said televising his trial would help enhance the fairness of the landmark case.

In an order released Friday, said she would not set aside a ban on photographing and broadcasting of federal criminal proceedings. The ban "does not violate the constitutional rights of either the public or the broadcast media," she said.

Brinkema also cited security concerns.

"Given the issues raised in the indictment, any societal benefits from photographing and broadcasting these proceedings are heavily outweighed by the significant dangers worldwide broadcasting of this trial would pose to the orderly and secure administration of justice," the judge wrote.

Brinkema has said she was concerned that television could have a chilling effect on witnesses at the trail.

The Justice Department contended a worldwide broadcast "might assist al-Qaida in retaliating against the witnesses who testify against it."

Court TV, supported by numerous television networks as well as an audio news agency, said in its petition the public had a right under the First Amendment to see and hear the proceedings first-hand, given the importance of the trial.

Televised images of the trial, set to begin Sept. 30, "are forever out there," she said at a recent hearing. "It does pose a security risk. If witnesses felt that photographs would be out there, that could be a chilling problem."

Moussaoui's lawyer, Edward MacMahon Jr. told the hearing that his client supported a televised trial with some restrictions. Television, he said, would provide Moussaoui with "an added layer of protection" for a fair trial. The defense does not want replays later in the day unless the jury is sequestered - kept in a secure location under control of U.S. marshals.

Lee Levine, arguing for the Court TV and C-SPAN, had contended the federal ban on cameras was unconstitutional and noted that Court TV has televised more than 750 state and local trials.

The right to observe a trial should not be limited to a few dozen spectators crammed into a courtroom, Levine said. "Television is ... a normal part of the courtroom procedure."

Moussaoui, a Frenchman of Moroccan descent, had joined Court TV in asking for broadcast of his trial on charges of conspiring to carry out the Sept. 11 attacks.

Brinkema said in her order Friday that the public's right to access to the trial would be satisfied because some members of both the public and the news media would be able to attend. Daily transcripts will be electronically available.

She said the presence of spectators, jurors and a judge would ensure the integrity of the trial.

"Significant concerns about the security of trial participants and the integrity of the fact-findinprocess justify a ban on photographing and broadcasting this trial," Brinkema wrote.

Televising the trial would probably "intimidate witnesses and jurors, as well as threaten the security of the courtroom and all those involved in this trial," she wrote.

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