Up to three cameras allowed
LOS ANGELES – TV coverage will be allowed at Sara Jane Olson’s trial on charges of trying to bomb police cars in 1975 to avenge the shootout deaths of Symbionese Liberation Army members, a court spokesman said Friday.
Superior Court Judge Larry P. Fidler, who rejected the latest motion to delay the trial, is expected to issue a written ruling on television coverage next week, court spokesman Kyle Christopherson said.
The issue of cameras in court has been controversial in Los Angeles since the televised O.J. Simpson murder trial in 1994-95. Olson lawyer Shawn Chapman was a member of the defense team in that case.
The district attorney’s office opposed televising Olson’s trial. Court TV and others fought for the admission of cameras to a trial they said was of great public interest. The defense favored admitting cameras.
“The judge has told us there will be up to three fixed cameras mounted on the walls with no wires showing,” Christopherson said.
The TV cameras will not be allowed to swivel and pan the courtroom but will have fixed views of the lawyers’ podium, the judge’s bench and the witness stand. Still photo cameras also will be allowed. No camera operators will be allowed to move about the courtroom, Christopherson said.
During a hearing Friday, the judge denied a defense bid to delay the trial for five months. He said he will begin hearing pretrial motions on April 30 and hopes to call prospective jurors a month after that.
He rejected Chapman’s arguments that she had inadequate time to examine 40,000 pieces of evidence including thousands of pages of documents turned over by the prosecution.
“I’m overwhelmed,” Chapman said. “I’m working as hard as I possibly can. ... I cannot represent my client in a case this serious without being ready.”
The judge said the defense had been given additional staff by the court.
“I understand this is a daunting task,” Fidler said. “But at this point you have a staff greater than anyone in the county.”
Deputy District Attorney Eleanor Hunter argued that much of the material turned over duplicates other evidence. But she conceded she may have more evidence to disclose to the defense in the near future.
Fidler ordered prosecutors to meet with defense attorneys and tell them exactly what evidence they will present and which witnesses they plan to call.
Chapman said her pretrial motions will consume a month of court time.
The case is complicated by the prosecution’s plan to exhume the detailed history of the SLA, detailing crimes before Olson allegedly joined the group. Although they concede she was not involved in kidnapping newspaper heiress Patty Hearst or the killing of an Oakland school superintendent, they say evidence of those crimes will show the nature of the SLA.
Olson, formerly known as Kathleen Soliah, is charged with placing pipe bombs under two police cars in retaliation for a 1974 police shootout in which six SLA members died. The bombs did not detonate. Olson has said she had nothing to do with the bombs.
Olson, who attended the hearing, was living as a Minnesota housewife and mother until her arrest in June 1999 after her picture appeared on “America’s Most Wanted.”