On Tuesday morning, I will once again return to Pennsylvania’s Centre County courthouse for the sentencing of Jerry Sandusky, the former Penn State University assistant football coach who was convicted in June of sexually abusing 10 boys over more than a decade. There will be a new addition to the ornate courtroom: a large digital clock that will rule when reporters can start tweeting news of the sentence.
Judge John M. Cleland, who was brought to the county to preside over this high-profile case, has long tried to keep cameras and live-tweeting out of his courtroom. During the June trial, Cleland allowed reporters to have laptops and cellphones in the main courtroom and a satellite courtroom, but the press was not allowed to transmit any information about the trial while court was in session. Sure enough, when the jury returned its verdict, some news outlets reported or tweeted the news long before others, possibly during the proceedings.
This time around, Cleland is adding more rules.
The biggest change is that digital clock, which will be placed at the front of the courtroom. Reporters have been instructed to sync their phones, laptops, tablets and other information-transmitting electronics with the court’s master clock. The court’s adjournment will be noted, and any reporter who transmits information with a timestamp earlier than that time will be busted.
Penalties could include fines or summary incarceration -- and media outlets who republish information prematurely put out by other media outlets could also get into trouble.
In his decorum order issued last week, the judge wrote that at least one reporter may have violated the previous rules by prematurely announcing the verdict.
“Imposing sanctions, however, became problematic because of the difficulty of proving the precise time of transmission in relation to the time announced for adjournment,” Cleland wrote. “The addition of a clock at the front of the courtroom is intended to address this problem.”
Here’s the full order:
I will be blogging and tweeting updates from the sentencing — well, when I can without breaking the rules — so follow me on Twitter, @wpjenna.