Fly on the Courtroom Wall

By Jon Mohwinkle

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The cameras in the courtroom controversy was a big topic in its day and one that Grant Price was instrumental in implementing. The rules concerning the use of cameras and other electronic media was and still are different in each state, but Iowa was one of the first states to allow it. Iowa was very progressive in this regard, as there were questions about how this might affect the proceedings in the courtroom. Some of the problems people saw with this topic mostly concerned the logistics of the operation — it wasn’t so much about privacy or confidentiality of the trials themselves. A loud shutter of cameras, bad courtroom lighting and underdressed camera operators were the main concerns.

May of 1979 was when it all began in Iowa. Chief Justice W. Ward Reynoldson appointed a committee to study whether or not Iowa should allow the use of cameras in its courtrooms. The main reason would be to inform the public and enhance the public’s understanding of judicial proceedings. That November, the Iowa Supreme Court agreed with the committee’s recommendation that cameras should be allowed in courtrooms. The ban was suspended and a one-year trial period began in January 1980.

Grant Price was the media coordinator of the first-ever trial under what was called Expanded Media Coverage. It was a fairly significant trial as well, because the defendant, Michael Earl Moses, was convicted of first degree murder in Black Hawk County. After experiencing success in the first year of the trial, the Iowa Supreme Court decided to extend the trial for another year. In December 1981, after the second year of the Expanded Media Coverage trial, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled in favor of the committee’s recommendation that laws should be permanently revised to allow for cameras in the courtroom. Just recently, in May 2014, the laws were amended slightly. This allowed for changing technologies and non-traditional media access to courtrooms.

While this is simply a timeline of events, it was much more important than just getting this mission accomplished for Grant Price. It was about providing transparency to people outside the trials. Price was an advocate for providing the truth, and nothing but the truth, in journalism — not only that, but the complete truth. A role model in this regard, he felt that it was only right to have cameras in Iowa’s courtrooms.

In the same way, it is our goal to provide great insight and an accurate description of the life and legacy of Grant Price.