Convicted murderer Misook Wang sits at the defense table with her attorneys Tuesday, Feb. 5 as she argued ineffective counsel. (Pool photo)
By Stephanie Pawlowski
BLOOMINGTON - A trial run is underway in McLean County court.
The Eleventh Judicial Circuit is now part of the statewide program allowing cameras and microphones in courtrooms.
There is one courtroom in McLean County now designated for multi media coverage and that's where Judge Freitag heard arguments Tuesday on ineffective counsel from convicted murderer Misook Wang. She was convicted in December in the strangling death of her mother-in-law.
Wang claimed she didn't have the chance to speak to her attorney before her trial started. She also said she pleaded with her attorney for an interpreter.
"The state was asking me questions that I didn't understand, so I gave the wrong answers," Wang said in court.
At one point, she started to cry during arguments.
Judge Robert Freitag denied Wang's request. He said the court ruled at the beginning of the trial that an interpreter wasn't needed.
"In the court's opinion, there was not a need for an interpreter in this case, at least there was nothing that ever occurred in this case that made the court believe that you needed the services of an interpreter," Judge Freitag said.
The judge also said he thought Wang did have a chance to meet several times with her defense team while in jail.
Defense attorney Brian McEldowney said he didn't think the cameras were distracting.
"Personally, I believe it's a good thing. I think that what takes place in the courtroom should be open to the public, should be accessible to people who aren't physically able to come here," McEldowney said.
McLean County State's Attorney Jason Chambers, who sat in on the hearing, said he thought the first coverage went fine.
"Over time, things are going to get a lot more streamlined," Chambers said. "There's probably going to be circumstances where people will realize that maybe we don't need duplication of efforts and maybe we will have fewer people."
Local media reporting at the first hearing included WJBC, WMBD, WEEK, the Pantagraph and WGLT. Reporters are encouraged to pool resources as just one video camera and one still camera are allowed in the courtroom. Audio and video outputs are located in a room across the hall from the dedicated courtroom.
Chambers said he thinks openness in court will really benefit the community.
"We have so much inaccurate exposure of the criminal justice system with things like CSI and Law and Order and shows that sensationalize, that I think it can be very helpful if people have the opportunity to be a part of what's actually going on and how cases are happening in our community," Chambers said.
Wang will be sentenced March 1.