Editor’s note: Many of In Session’s Facebook and Twitter followers have asked us how does In Session track trials. In Session’s Trials Editor Jessica Thill wrote the following post to answer some of those questions.
TRIAL TRACKING IN FIVE STEPS
In Session’s Trial Tracking does a critical job for the network – finding interesting cases and keeping watch as they get closer to trial.
There are a number of ways the tracking team members find and research trials. They comb case leads in daily online periodicals, press releases and Google alerts. They also talk to prosecutors, defense attorneys, court clerks, and other court personnel. The trial tracking unit also uses social media to follow trending cases and get suggestions from In Session viewers. All of this information is stored in an extensive proprietary database that currently has data on more than 9,000 criminal and civil cases.
Here is an actual example of the unit’s five-step process for finding trials:
Step 1: FIND AN INTERESTING STORY
The tracker who covers Arizona finds an article about a woman who is accused of shooting and stabbing her ex-boyfriend and leaving his naked body in a shower in 2008. Police recovered photos of his body from a camera that was left in a washing machine. The defendant has given varying accounts of what happened, but ultimately claims she killed him in self-defense.
Step 2: THE DATABASE
The case is definitely one we want to follow, so the tracker starts a file with basic information, including a summary of facts.
Step 3: TRACKING THE CASE
As the case progresses through the criminal justice system, the tracker compiles articles and information on the case. The tracker also contacts key players, including the prosecutor and defense attorneys, for additional details and periodically checks with the court clerk and public information officer for updates on court dates and filings.
Step 4: PREPARING THE REPORT
The case is set for trial in November 2012, so the tracker writes an extensive report, making sure it includes all the pertinent information. Any gaps are filled and the final report is reviewed to ensure accuracy and completeness.
Step 5: TRIAL TRACKING MEETING
The Trial Tracking team and In Session executives meet every Tuesday to discuss upcoming trials. In Session executives make a final decision on whether the case will be covered and what resources to devote to bringing the case to the audience. The case is selected. The tracker sends a formal application letter to the judge and the attorneys involved. The judge approves our application to put cameras in the courtroom. Field producers, correspondents and technical staff will head to the courthouse and set up cameras and equipment before jury selection begins.
The last step is bringing you gavel-to-gavel coverage of the trial on In Session.