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Pham trial Judge is pleased with decision to allow cameras

4:55 PM, Aug 26, 2013   |    comments
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FAIRFAX, Va. (WUSA) -- Judge Jane Marum Roush presided over last week's murder trial of 27-year-old Julio Blanco Garcia. 

He was convicted of 1st degree murder and sentenced to 49 years for killing 19-year-old Vanessa Pham.

You could see what was happening, because Judge Roush allowed a camera inside recording a trial for the first time in Fairfax, despite the worries of many courthouse officials. 

"Everybody just needed to relax. Let the press do its job. And we do our job. And I thought everything would be fine. And it turned out that way, "said Roush.

For the past three years, local media, including WUSA9, has petitioned judges through Northern Virginia to allow cameras in courtrooms. There were several trials in Prince William County in the 1990's (The Lorena Bobbitt trial) and the 2000's that allowed cameras, but none in recent years.

Finally, despite Judge Jane Roush's formally rigid "knee jerk reaction" against cameras in the court, she decided hold a hearing to listen to the media's attorneys. They convinced her despite objections from both the Commonwealth's Attorney and the Defense.

"I didn't notice anyone grandstanding for the cameras. I didn't think the jurors were distracted by the cameras. I don't think it affected any of the witness testimony," Roush said.

While the case was extremely important to the community, it was not a national story. Judge Roush decided that without the national spot light, allowing a camera would be a manageable experiment.

"I've had a lot of people tell me it did help with their understanding of the legal process," she said.

Will she allow cameras again? Maybe.

"I was extremely please that it worked out I don't think it adversely affected the defense or the commonwealth's case. It was a win-win situation all around. That's her opinion about this case only.

For a really high profile case, Judge Roush says she might have a problem with cameras. She was the judge for one of the sniper cases, John Lee Malvo, and did not allow cameras in back then
or for any trial since, until last week.

When asked if cameras affected the case, David Bernhard, Blanco  Garcia's defense attorney, told WUSA9 that during the sentencing phase, he did not put Blanco Garcia's mother or brother on the stand because he didn't want them on TV.  Bernhard felt it could "ruin their lives" if people know they're related to a murderer.  There's no telling whether hearing from the defendant family members would have had any impact on the jury or not.  

Judge Roush can either accept or reduce the 49 year sentence recommended by the jury. Blanco Garcia's sentencing day is November 15, 2013.

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