The Allegheny County sheriff’s office, which oversees security in Pittsburgh courts, is barring cell phones in courtrooms during preliminary hearings in homicide cases, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Also prohibited are pagers and any audio or visual recording devices. Pennsylvania law forbids any audio or video recording of court proceedings.
Lt. Thomas Carter said prosecutors and judges had expressed concerns that members of the public were using cell phones with camera capabilities to take pictures of witnesses and defendants during hearings. “You’ve got rival factions, they’re taking pictures of the witnesses who are testifying, [and] the defendants. Ultimately, what that could lead to was once it gets back out on the street, they could show their friends who’s testifying against certain people,” Carter said. “It could cause massive retaliation.” Carter was unable to list specific incidents that gave rise to the concerns but he said sheriff’s deputies have asked people to remove their cell phones from the courtroom after being caught taking pictures.