Sheley trial could be one of first in camera in courtroom test

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A high-profile Whiteside County murder trial could be one of the first in Illinois to allow cameras in the courtroom.

Nicholas Sheley is set to go on trial in March, accused of a bi-state killing spree that left 8 victims dead.

On Tuesday, the Illinois State Supreme Court announced a pilot program allowing audio and video recorded in certain criminal cases around the state.

Under the experiment, Chief Judges in the state’s 23 judicial circuits must apply to participate. Chief Judge Jeffrey O’Connor runs the courts in the 14th Judicial Circuit, which includes Rock Island, Mercer, Henry and Whiteside counties. Judge O’Connor says he’s in.

”It will happen in the 14th”, O’Connor said in an interview shortly after the announcement. ”If we can get the logistics together and the technology assembled and installed, this could happen in a matter of weeks”, he said. When asked if it’s possible the plan may be in place before the Sheley trial starts, O’Connor said ”yes”.

Illinois had been just one of 14 states banning cameras in the courtroom. Illinois State Supreme Court Justice Tom Kilbride told WQAD ”it was time”.

”This is one of the items I wanted on the agenda, and fortunately, my colleagues on the court unanimously agreed at my request to try this experiment”, Kilbride said Tuesday. ”It’s not carte blanche. It’s a case by case basis. Circuit by circuit. The door is open, but there still has to be permission granted on a case by case basis.”

Kilbride, who lives in Rock Island, says he knows it can work because he has watched coverage of neighboring Iowa trials on television for years.

”Our rules are modeled in large part, not exclusively, but we looked very carefully at the precise rules they use in Iowa. We’ve used the experience in Iowa to put together what we hope is going to be a good starting point”, Kilbride said.