Why you won’t see video of Robert Dear in court this week

Tom Woodward on Flickr


The last time Robert Dear appeared in a Colorado Springs courtroom the world got quite an earful and eyeful of the accused Planned Parenthood shooter. Videos of multiple outbursts from the shackled white-bearded man with the wild hair have gone viral, racking up views on YouTube and driving web traffic to the news outlets that published them.

On Dec. 9, the first time Dear appeared in open court, the judge granted one TV camera operator and a still print photographer the right to film under a ruling that officially allowed “Expanded Media Coverage.” Other members of the media who won a media lottery to appear in the courtroom were not allowed to bring electronic devices like voice recorders or cell phones inside.

But on Wednesday, there won’t be any lenses in the courtroom to capture what happens.

“The Court will allow a sketch artist in the courtroom if the media so desires,” read a news release this week from the State Court Administrator. But “this hearing is not eligible for Expanded Media Coverage. Cameras will not be permitted in the courtroom.”

That’s not because of The Robert Dear Show that commenced last time cameras were allowed. It’s simply because of the kind of hearing taking place — officially called a hearing on “further proceedings.” Colorado’s media rules only allow judges to grant expanded media coverage for two events prior to a trial— an advisement and an arraignment.

“Tomorrow’s hearing is neither,” says Steve Zansberg, a Denver attorney who represents newspapers and broadcasters in Colorado. “It’s simply not authorized. It cannot be authorized without violating the rule that allows a judge to authorize it.”

Until Dear’s arraignment — the next time cameras might be allowed — there could be dozens of motions, hearings, status conferences, and further proceedings about his case like the one this Wednesday.

In Colorado, judges consider multiple factors when deciding whether to allow expanded media coverage. They include whether there’s a reasonable likelihood that doing so will interfere with the rights of the parties to a fair trial; whether there is a “reasonable likelihood that expanded media coverage would unduly detract from the solemnity, decorum and dignity of the court,” and whether expanded media coverage “would create adverse effects which would be greater than those caused by traditional media coverage.”

Whether Dear shows up Wednesday is likely up to him.

“He has a constitutional right to be at every hearing,” says Robert McCallum, a spokesman for the State Court Administrator. “As far as I know he’s going to be there.”