Judge Makes Case For Saying "No" To Cell Phones

By Jeff Neumeyer

May 17, 2012 Updated May 17, 2012 at 5:16 PM EDT

Allen County, Ind. (Indiana’s NewsCenter) - Safety over convenience.

Allen Superior Court Judge Fran Gull is defending the policy to ban the public and media from bringing cell phones and other electronic devices into the Allen County Courthouse and three other court-supervised facilities.

The policy has been in force for more than five years, but an incident in the past week has brought it back into the spotlight.

WOWO Radio's news director had his i-Phone confiscated and it was ordered destroyed after he carried it into a guilty plea hearing for accused murderer Michael Plumadore.

David Wheaton, who used the phone in plain view, says he was not aware of the ban.

Signs are posted outside court buildings and at security stations inside, telling visitors cell phones and other devices are not allowed.

Judge Gull says the cell phone restriction was put in place after a 2006 murder trial, in which suspected gang members were caught taking cell phone pictures of the judge, lawyers, jurors and a witness.

Attempts were made, Gull says, to post some of the pictures on the Internet.

Judge Fran Gull/Allen Superior Criminal Court: " That would have put that witness's life in jeopardy. That was it as far as I was concerned. We cannot have that kind of behavior going on in the courtroom. And I know that it's inconvenient for people. Their inconvenience is less of an importance than safety."

Not all Indiana counties view the issue the same.

In Huntington County, for instance, you can take cell phones into the courthouse, but can't take them into the courtrooms.

In DeKalb County, you can take a cell phone into the courtroom, but you have to turn it off upon entry.

Judge Gull says it's left up to the individual counties to make policy, and she's glad the Allen County Commissioners have prioritized safety.

We asked the judge why visitors have no place to check devices as they come to the courthouse to do court business.

Judge Gull/Allen Superior Criminal Court: " Do we have enough locker space, or enough room to put something like that...you know, we get over 2000 visitors a week, that come into this building. I don't have space for 2000 lockers, I don't have the money for that."

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