Legal website seeks camera in Aspen courtroom for Calvano trial
August 21, 2011
ASPEN – An online court network has asked a district judge to grant it expanded media coverage that would allow it to place cameras in the courtroom for the upcoming trial of a fired Aspen police officer.
Courtroom View Network (CVN) filed the request last week in Pitkin County District Court, the venue for the trial of ex-cop Melinda Calvano, who is suing the city of Aspen and its city manager, Steve Barwick, for sexual discrimination.
Jury selection in the trial is set for Sept. 2. Trial testimony is scheduled to run Sept. 6-10.
“CVN understands and respects courtroom decorum,” states a letter to District Judge James Boyd, who is expected to preside over the trial. “CVN covers proceedings in full, without commercials or commentary of any kind. No reporter acts as an intermediary between the proceedings and the audience. Many jurists have recognized that this type of non-sensationalized, noncommercial coverage is particularly appropriate for proceedings, and is the best way to balance the litigants’ right to a fair trial with the public’s right to open courts.”
David Siegel, head researcher for the New York-based online network, said Friday that CVN has limited experience in covering trials in Colorado, most notably the 2009 one involving former University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill.
“In places like Florida, the camera laws are very open,” Siegel explained. “In Colorado it’s open to the discretion of the judge.”
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The most recent court case in Aspen in which expanded media coverage was requested came during the domestic violence case of actor Charlie Sheen. Boyd issued a courtroom decorum that prohibited cell phones, cameras, laptop computers and other electronic devices into the courtroom during the proceedings, held over the course of 2010. Attendants of the Sheen courtroom proceedings were screened before entering the courtroom.
The Calvano trial doesn’t promise to draw nearly a fraction of that attention, as CVN is the first press outlet to make a request for expanded media coverage. Siegel said if the network receives permission to have cameras in the courtroom, it would hire a local contractor to film the trial. The trial would not be covered in real time; instead users could upload the coverage. CVT’s coverage is much like what’s seen on C-SPAN, a no-frills approach with straight video of the proceedings, and no accompanying video commentary.
“We think [the Calvano trial] would be of interest to those in the legal community,” Siegel said, noting that the primary audience would could come from the legal community, such as attorneys, law professors and law students.
As of Friday, both the city’s attorney in the case, Gary Doehling of Grand Junction, and Calvano’s lawyer, Marc Colin of Denver, had not entered a formal response to CVN’s request, made Aug. 18. Doehling and Colin were not available for comment Friday.
Calvano sued the city and Barwick in July 2007. Her suit claims that while under the employ of the city, she was subjected to gender bias, sexual harassment and a hostile work environment. Calvano also contends that the city retaliated against her when it fired her July 27, 2006 – one month after she Tasered a homeless woman in the alley behind the Thrift Shop of Aspen. Calvano sued the city a year after her termination.
The city contends that Calvano was treated fairly and it was her unnecessary Tasering of Carol Alexy that resulted in her termination. Calvano maintains that she Tasered Alexy because she was felt threatened by the woman, who was alleged to have been digging through a Thrift Shop trash bin.
Calvano’s suit seeks $460,000 from the city.