Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has pleaded innocent to felony fraud charges.
He should want all Texans to see him argue his innocence.
Instead, Paxton has asked state District Judge George Gallagher to bar cameras from his upcoming Collin County trial on two felony fraud charges, plus a felony charge connected to a securities violation for which he already paid a $1,000 civil fine.
That is worrisome. When Texas’ top civil lawyer is facing felony criminal charges, the people of Texas deserve to see what is happening and why.
Of all people, Paxton should be quick to support the principles of government transparency and public accountability.
Not only do Texans deserve to see his case and how his trial is handled, but Collin County taxpayers also deserve to see how their county dollars are spent by the special prosecutors appointed to present the case.
Long gone are the days when courtroom video posed a distraction or created an atmosphere where lawyers “played to the camera.”
Today’s technology makes it possible for cameras and microphones to be small and innocuous. Gallagher can choose from a wide range of video and audio equipment.
At Paxton’s preliminary hearing Thursday in Gallagher’s Tarrant County courtroom, the judge allowed one television station to share video with other outlets. The hearing was taped through several microphones and the courtroom video system.
Paxton’s then-attorney read a statement from the attorney general objecting, saying, “We don’t want this case tried in the press. We want this case tried in the courtroom.”
But nothing at the hearing supported such fears. Texans statewide were able to watch the webcast and saw Gallagher, appointed to hear the case as a visiting judge in Collin County, say that he will give orders for how to handle press coverage and video: “It is my decision on how that order will be done.”
Gallagher’s capable hand can ensure both a fair trial and a public one.