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Fact Check-Cameras are largely not allowed in U.S. federal courts (but usually are in state courtrooms)

Correction Nov. 24, 2021: An earlier version of this article said Maxwell’s trial had yet to begin. Correcting paragraph five to reflect that while opening statements have not yet begun, jury selection has.

Contrary to claims made online, the absence of cameras in the upcoming Ghislaine Maxwell sex abuse trial is not evidence of a “media manipulation” or “cover-up.”

Social media users made this and other false claims comparing Maxwell’s trial to the four-day trial of teenager Kyle Rittenhouse, who was acquitted by a jury of murder in the fatal shooting of two men during racial justice protests on Nov. 19, 2021 ( here ).

“Why exactly is the Ghislaine Maxwell trial, (which started today), not being streamed live for all the world to see? Could it perhaps be something to do with the fact ..her trial would unite the public against corruption & not divide it like the Rittenhouse trial? ” reads a tweet ( here ).

See other iterations: here, here, here.

Firstly, in-person jury selection began on Tuesday in the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell (here) (here). Opening statements are scheduled for Nov. 29 and expected to last six weeks (here). Posts with this claim feature courtroom sketches of her pre-trial hearings ( here, here, here).

Secondly, contrary to Rittenhouse’s trial — held at the Kenosha County Courthouse in Wisconsin — Maxwell’s will be held at a federal court in Manhattan ( here ).

As reported by Reuters ( here ) some state and local courts in the United States permit cameras and allow live TV broadcasts of certain proceedings, but federal courts largely do not.

Broadcasting and photographing criminal proceedings in federal courts is prohibited under the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure (see here ). A few federal district courts and circuit courts allow recordings “under certain, limited circumstances,” according to a 2019 report by the Congressional Research Service (see page 10, here).

In Wisconsin, television cameras and still photographers are allowed in any courtroom proceeding, as stated in Chapter of its Supreme Court rules ( here ), which were adopted in 1979.

As stated by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts ( here ), cases involving the U.S. government, the Constitution or federal laws or foreign governments are under the jurisdiction of federal courts. This includes “a claim by the government that someone has violated federal laws,” which is the case of the Ghislaine Maxwell trial ( here ). State courts deal with cases regarding state laws and constitutions ( here )

“Most criminal cases involve violations of the state law and are tried in state court” and these handle “by far the larger number of cases” in comparison with federal courts, although the later tend to hear cases of national importance more often, an article in FindLaw.com by Thomson Reuters reports ( here ).

Examples of televised state criminal trials include the cases of football player OJ Simpson and music producer Phil Spector ( here , here). In the case of the People of the State of New York v Harvey Weinstein, another state trial, cameras were only allowed in certain areas but not during the proceedings ( here , here ).

Examples of high profile federal criminal court cases also not broadcast include Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman ( here) and Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes ( here).

Prosecutors have said that Maxwell, 59, recruited and groomed underage girls for now-deceased financier Jeffrey Epstein to abuse. She has pleaded not guilty to six counts of sex trafficking and other crimes. Her lawyers have said extensive media coverage of her July 2020 arrest has tainted the jury pool ( here ).

VERDICT

Misleading. Ghislaine Maxwell’s upcoming sex abuse trial will be held in a Manhattan federal court, where cameras are prohibited under the Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure. The state of Wisconsin, where Kyle Rittenhouse trial was held in a state court, allows cameras.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here.

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