• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Fact check: Cameras not allowed during Ghislaine Maxwell's trial

·6 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Ghislaine Maxwell
    Ghislaine Maxwell
    Socialite

The claim: Kyle Rittenhouse's trial was live-streamed but 'you can't even find a real picture' of Ghislaine Maxwell in court

After the acquittal of 18-year-old Kyle Rittenhouse, who was tried for killing two people during a Wisconsin protest in 2020, some social media users drew comparisons to another trial in New York.

British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell is accused of procuring underage girls for billionaire Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse. Her federal trial begins Nov. 29.

Social media users are making claims about the level of media coverage involved in both trials.

"When the Kyle Rittenhouse trial is live-streamed with 24/7 media coverage but you can't even find a real picture of Ghislaine Maxwell in court," reads text over a courtroom sketch featuring Maxwell and her lawyer.

Fact check: Altered video falsely claims to show jubilant reaction to Rittenhouse verdict in a bar

The image, shared to Facebook on Nov. 22, was altered to feature actor John Travolta in the movie "Pulp Fiction." The original image shows Maxwell sitting in between attorneys Bobbi Sternheim and Jeffrey Pagliuca.

The Facebook post generated more than 1,300 shares in two days.

But there isn't a nefarious reason for the lack of photos and videos of Maxwell in court. Her trial hasn't started yet, and cameras are not allowed in the federal court where she is being tried.

USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the claim for comment.

Special access for subscribers! Click here to sign up for our fact-check text chat

In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell looks over her shoulder to the courtroom audience prior to the start of jury selection in her trial on Nov. 16, 2021, in New York.
In this courtroom sketch, Ghislaine Maxwell looks over her shoulder to the courtroom audience prior to the start of jury selection in her trial on Nov. 16, 2021, in New York.

Recording allowed during Wisconsin state trials

Rittenhouse's trial was held at a state court in Wisconsin. The state's Supreme Court has allowed recording devices and cameras in courtrooms since 1979.

Chapter 61 of the Supreme Court Rules says a judge can restrict the use of cameras during the testimony of certain witnesses or during certain proceedings.

According to the rules, three television cameras with one operator each and three photographers, each with no more than two cameras, are allowed in the courtroom. Camera operators can't move outside an area determined by the judge, and they can't take pictures that could "clearly identify individual jurors."

Special access for subscribers! Click here to sign up for our fact-check text chat

Rittenhouse's trial lasted about three weeks and was live-streamed by several national and local news outlets.

Cameras, recording devices not allowed in federal court

Maxwell's trial takes place in a different setting – federal court as opposed to state court – with different rules.

Because it's in a federal court, cameras and other recording devices won't be allowed during Maxwell's trial.

Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure says "the court must not permit the taking of photographs in the courtroom during judicial proceedings or the broadcasting of judicial proceedings from the courtroom," unless a statute says otherwise.

The jury selection process started Nov. 16 and opening statements are scheduled for Nov. 29. The trial is expected to last around six weeks, the Associated Press reported.

Maxwell, who has been in custody since her arrest in July 2020, pleaded not guilty to allegations she helped Epstein "recruit, groom, and ultimately abuse victims" under the age of 18 between 1994 and 1997, according to the indictment.

Fact check: No evidence bricks placed in Kenosha for planned unrest after Rittenhouse verdict

Cameras could affect trial

Most federal judges have rejected visual coverage of court proceedings because of the effect it could have on trial participants, according to Ruth Ann Strickland, a former government and justice studies professor at Appalachian State University.

"Some witnesses fidget nervously before cameras, possibly harming their credibility with jurors," Strickland wrote for the First Amendment Encyclopedia in 2009. She also wrote the presence of cameras could "prejudice trial outcomes" and deprive defendants of a fair trial.

Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, points  to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell during a news conference in New York on July 2, 2020.
Audrey Strauss, acting U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, points to a photo of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell during a news conference in New York on July 2, 2020.

In Maxwell's trial, there's another concern: the identity of accusers testifying against her.

Judge Alison J. Nathan ruled courtroom artists will not be allowed to sketch the accusers, The New York Times reported. Accusers will also be allowed to testify under pseudonyms.

Some federal courts have allowed cameras as part of pilot programs. Only three courts – the District Court for the Northern District of California, the District Court of Guam and the District Court for the Western District of Washington – are still part of a pilot program evaluating the effect of cameras and recording devices in civil proceedings.

Our rating: Missing context

Based on our research, we rate MISSING CONTEXT the claim that the Rittenhouse trial was live-streamed but "you can't even find a real picture" of Maxwell in court, because it can be misleading without additional context.

Maxwell's federal trial hasn't begun yet. It won't be recorded because cameras are not allowed in federal courts. Rittenhouse's trial was able to be live-streamed because Wisconsin rules allow cameras inside state courtrooms.

Our fact-check sources:

Thank you for supporting our journalism. You can subscribe to our print edition, ad-free app or electronic newspaper replica here.

Our fact-check work is supported in part by a grant from Facebook.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Ghislaine Maxwell's federal trial won't be recorded

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting