Is Televising of Trials Constitutionally Correct ?

In Estes v. Texas (381 US 532 1965), the United States Supreme Court held that the defendant had been denied due process as a result of the televising of his trial and certain pretrial hearings. Writing for the majority, Justice Clark stated that sometimes "a procedure employed by the State involves such a probability that prejudice will result that it is deemed inherently lacking in due process." (Estes v. Texas, supra, at 542-543.) With six separate opinions, however, the Estes holding is a fact-specific due process rejection of televised coverage and not a general ban based upon presumptive prejudice. Thus, the Estes Court left open the question of whether the Constitution absolutely prohibited the televising of trials stating that: "When the advances in technology permit reporting by ... television without its present hazards to a fair trial we will have another case." (Estes v. Texas, supra, at 540.) Echoing this notion in his concurring opinion, Justice Harlan stated: "We should not be deterred from making the constitutional judgment which this case demands by the prospect that the day may come when television will have become so commonplace an affair in the daily life of the average person as to dissipate all reasonable likelihood that its use in courtrooms may disparage the judicial process. If and when that day arrives the constitutional judgment called for now would of course be subject to re-examination in accordance with the traditional workings of the Due Process Clause." (Estes v. Texas, supra, at 595-596 Harlan, J., concurring.)