Judge: Cameras allowed for trial of Estates teen accused of killing parents

Defendant Alex Crain leaves the courtroom after a pre-trial hearing for a judgement on two motions by defense attorney Brian Bieber, including one to bar electronic media from inside the courtroom.  Both motions were denied by Judge Fred Hardt. Greg Kahn/Staff

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Defendant Alex Crain leaves the courtroom after a pre-trial hearing for a judgement on two motions by defense attorney Brian Bieber, including one to bar electronic media from inside the courtroom. Both motions were denied by Judge Fred Hardt. Greg Kahn/Staff

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Photographers snapped pictures of Alex Crain — a little taller and with a shaved head — as he sat in a Collier County courtroom on Friday.

And they will continue to photograph Crain, now 15, who is accused of killing his parents, Thomas and Kelly Crain, in December. Collier Circuit Judge Fred Hardt ruled that no one — not photographers, not television cameras — will be barred from the trial proceedings or any further pre-trial coverage.

The date of the trial has not yet been set.

The motion to exclude all photographic and electronic media was made on June 24, by Crain’s attorneys, including Brian Bieber, who was at the hearing on Friday.

Bieber wrote that allowing all media outlets to use cameras — video and still — would deny Crain’s right to a “fair and impartial trial and due process of law.”

On Aug. 5, the Daily News filed a motion to oppose. A week later, Waterman Broadcasting, the News-Press and on Friday, the Fort Myers Broadcasting Co. — which includes WINK-TV, a CBS affiliate — filed a similar motion.

“The press is going to cover this trial, regardless if they’re allowed to photograph or not,” Deanna Shullman, an attorney representing the Daily News said in court.

She added that the defendant has not shown any evidence that reporting on what happens if and when the trial happens, would be any different from a reporter sitting in the galley in the courtroom, or down the street from the courthouse.

Bieber’s argument stemmed from a suggestion that an atmospheric change occurs when cameras are present.

“It’s human nature. When you’re in front of cameras ... people behave, act, talk, think differently,” Bieber said after the ruling. “To have the risk of one witness or one juror be adversely affected by the presence of cameras in the courtroom should not be taken in a case where a 15-year-old is charged with manslaughter.”

But the potential for harm is not enough in the eyes of the law. Evidence must show that a negative affect would occur through the presence of cameras, and Bieber conceded that he did not have any.

“The judge pinpointed it right on the head when he said you need evidence to exclude cameras from the hearing and the defendant basically conceded he had no evidence,” Shullman said. “He wanted the court to make a bunch of assumptions. We can’t start with the assumption, as the defendant asked, that everybody’s going to run amuck in the system.”

Bieber is permitted to appeal the decision, though it has not yet been determined if he will. But, he remains true to his argument.

“Why take a chance? Why take a chance in impairing Alex’s chance to a fair trial?” Bieber said as part of his closing argument.

Judge Hardt also denied a request — brought forth by Bieber — for Crain to have confidential meeting with a psychotherapist of his choosing one time per week.

If the case goes to trial and Crain, who would be tried as adult, is convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison on each count of first-degree felony manslaughter.

His bail is set for $1 million.

© 2011 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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