On Tuesday, October 17, 2023, San Antonio Express-News reported that Texas 187th District Court Judge Stephanie Boyd’s YouTube channel has become a popular platform for her court proceedings, but it has also raised concerns among defense lawyers who fear that it may endanger their client’s right to a fair trial.
Boyd, who has been broadcasting her court proceedings on YouTube since April 21, 2020, has gained a large following, with over 13,000 subscribers and 1.4 million page views. However, defense lawyers argue that the channel’s open mic for commenters and unrestrained chat feature may violate their clients’ Sixth Amendment right to a public trial.
Robert Featherston, a veteran defense attorney, filed a motion last month asking Boyd to shut down the channel altogether, citing the Constitution’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. Featherston argued that recording court proceedings and leaving them online tainted the judicial process and could lead to chaos, especially if jury members ignore the judge’s order not to look at anything on media.
Alex Scharff, another San Antonio defense attorney, also filed a similar motion on the same issue. He expressed concern that jurors and witnesses may access outside media, including Boyd’s YouTube channel, and read what commenters think should happen, which could jeopardize natural trial outcomes.
However, Boyd declined to comment on the motion, citing the pending case before her court. She has also previously denied a similar motion filed by Scharff, citing the need for transparency and public access to court proceedings.
The issue has raised questions about the role of technology in the courtroom and the need to balance transparency with the right to a fair trial. Authorities, including State District Judge Ron Rangel, the administrative judge for the district courts in Bexar County, and 4th Administrative Judicial Region Judge Sid Harle, who manages 22 counties, have expressed concerns about the channel but have not provided a clear answer on whether Boyd is violating any judicial rules.
Michael Smith, an assistant professor of law at St. Mary’s University, suggested that one possible solution would be for Boyd to broadcast live but delete the comments portion, which seems to be the largest part of the complaint.
As the case proceeds, it remains to be seen whether Boyd’s YouTube channel will continue to be a part of her court proceedings or whether the concerns raised by defense lawyers will lead to changes in the way court proceedings are broadcast online.
Source: San Antonio Express-News