The lawyers involved in the high-profile trial of Nathan Leuthold say expanded media coverage didn't affect the way they argued the case.
Leuthold was found guilty of first degree murder for the death of his wife, Denise Leuthold. Prosecutors allege Leuthold shot her in the back of the head on Valentine's Day 2013 at the couple's North Peoria home so he could pursue a relationship with a Lithuanian student he sponsored. He will be sentenced in September.
The six day trial was the first in Peoria County history in which media were allowed to take pictures, video, and audio out of the courtroom. Reporters were also permitted to relay information live via social media and the Internet. While the new rules, permitted by a Supreme Court edict, served as a game-changer for media, the attorneys in the case say they didn't change anything about their approach.
"We are not the type of people that are intimidated or feel shy because there was a camera there. Having said that, the flip side's also true. We're not playing for the cameras," said defense attorney Hugh Toner.
He said there are some things that needed to be tweaked about the process, such as putting in place rules that protect things like telephone numbers and bank account information, which are usually read aloud in court, from being released to the general public.
"But, you know, those things I think as you roll down the road, will be taken under consideration and those things will be dealt with," Toner said. "But I think it's a good thing, as long as it doesn't have an adverse impact on the judicial process. First and foremost, that's what it's all about."
State's Attorney Jerry Brady and Assistant State's Attorney Jodi Hoos also seemed nonchalant about the expanded media allowances, saying that focusing on getting a conviction was more important than worrying about cameras in the courtroom.
There was some earlier concern that witnesses might be more hesitant to testify in open court when cameras were present. However, the presiding judge can tell media to turn off their equipment under certain circumstances. During the Leuthold trial, the microphones and cameras were turned off for only two witnesses.
The Illinois Supreme Court approved the pilot program that paved the way for extra media coverage of trials in 2012. Peoria County got on board with it earlier this year after a long research and review process.