Earlier this week, Anitra Burrows, a spectator at Bill Cosby’s sexual assault trial, was found guilty of contempt of court for posting recordings to YouTube of the closing arguments. A Pennsylvania trial court judge sentenced her to 50 hours of community service for her actions. She admitted she violated a court order, but apparently she had been willing to take the risk. According to ABC News, she “viewed Cosby’s celebrated sexual assault trial as the ‘one time’ she might produce a viral online video.” Pennsylvania courts have some pretty strict rules about recording trials. For this high-profile case in particular, though, the court had also entered a specific decorum order barring any recording or any communication from any device within the courtroom.
Of course, all this happened in the context of Pennsylvania court rules. So let’s look at whether a smartphone-wielding spectator in a North Carolina trial (civil or criminal) could be subject to a contempt order for similar behavior. I believe the answer is yes, under the right circumstances. Continue Reading