Peripheral Notes: Happenings around the Headlamp Trial

Yesterday the case of State v Garret Ean was heard in regards to a $29.76 bicycle headlamp citation. While trial footage recorded by Free Keene videographers uploads, it’s worth making a note of the events before the trial, which resulted in one individual being temporarily banned from the courthouse for filming in the lobby. When I arrived just after 8:30am, I saw James of Shire TV standing outside of the front door and filming in. It was clear what had just occurred — he had been kicked out for filming. I’ve been in the same situation at Concord district court, where you will likely get ejected for recording outside of the courtroom. Sometimes, I am allowed through security with one camera but not another, and sometimes nothing is restricted.

On the inside, my videocamera was taken and replaced with a scruffy old property receipt, a number sharpie’d on it. I saw a slew of activists from Keene in the lobby speaking with bailiffs. Word was spreading that all cameras were being taken, even those with filled-out permission slips, until the judge authorized the forms. Myself planning to audio record the entire hearing, I had yet to fill out the blank media form which has three options: Still Camera, Video/Audio Camera, or Audio Recording. As my audio recorder and cell phone were not confiscated, I waited to fill out the copy in the courtroom.


Concord District Court head of security Peter Hamilton enjoying a pipe on break. Photo by Brian Blackden

I asked bailiffs why that today they had decided to seize all incoming videocameras. “The judge always authorizes recording, so why does everyone need to have their property confiscated?” The head of security, Peter Hamilton, appeared and stated that the judge who always grants approval of notices was out this particular day. He was possibly referring to judge Gerard Boyle, whom to my knowledge has not denied any press notifications placed before him. I have audio and video recorded others’ trials before both he and the sitting judge on this day, M. Kristin Spath, without hassle from either. This does not also include a lack of hassle from the bailiffs. My experience has been that having a filled out recording permission slip to present at the checkpoint does make one more likely to emerge on the other side with their camera unswiped. Hamilton cited rules handed down by Edwin Kelly as the basis for the restriction, Kelly being the very secretive administrative judge of New Hampshire district courts.

I proceeded upstairs to check in at the courtroom. I met with the prosecutor and went over which evidence I’d be using in court, and they were marked and entered. The state’s witness was contacted and told to appear to testify. I phoned my witness to inform him that the trial would begin soon. Hanging up, I was surprised when individuals coming up the stairs informed me bailiffs had begun returning cameras to people, even if they did not fill out permission slips.

Heading outside to check on James, I found him on the phone with police. He informed me that they were on their way down. He had called them to report that the bailiffs were denying him access to a public building. I went back inside, envisioning the potential outcomes of police intervention. Security returned my camera to me after I affirmed that I would not film prior to submitting a permission slip. Back upstairs, Pete Eyre had taken a seat closer to the prosecution’s side of the court. A bailiff approached him and asked if he was going to be taking his hat off. Responding that he preferred to keep it on, no further issue was made of it. Ian Freeman began handing out Don’t Take the Plea Deal pamphlets to others waiting in the courtroom, and rather than trying to stop him, a bailiff simply announced that the pamphlets were being distributed by a private interest and that none of the information contained therein is sanctioned by the court.

Shortly before my name was called for the start of trial, James entered the room. Lo and behold, the state police had arrived on scene and negotiated with bailiffs to allow James to enter the building, sans his videocamera. And to top it off, there was zero commotion caused when a few individuals chose not to stand as the judge entered and exited!

In a twist of fate, yesterday also happened to the be the day that the NH Supreme Court announced a new and optional set of procedures that costs $180+$25 to register per year and affords privilege to media organizations in the state. By filing, an organization can get an authorization pass to make recordings in court without having to give notice for each individual hearing. For video of the first time I was hassled about recording in Concord courthouses, check out this clip from August 2011.

As for the trial itself, the matter was taken under advisement (verdict to be delivered later), so stay tuned here for an extensive writeup and further updates.

Dec 13 2012: Raw video and audio from the trial has been compiled into a playlist on the Fr33manTVraw channel.

Dec 16 2012: A minimally edited video of the complete trial is now available from FreeConcordTV.

Dec 20 2012: And the verdict is

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