How I wrote the reports of first instance MC family v. GA et al trial
Although trials can be filmed in the US, and even broadcast live as OJ Simpson's one, the use of any recording device is forbidden in the courtroom during the course of the proceedings in France, in Portugal and in the UK where violation of this rule is considered contempt of law.
These precautions in European Courts of Justice aren't arbitrary, they are essentially justified by the protection of the defence and the presumption of innocence. The legislator wants to avoid disturbing the serenity and dignity of the debates and guarantee the right to image of the parties, as well as the authority and impartiality of the judiciary power. This is why sketches, seen as an interpretation, are the prerogative of judicial artists.
Any apparatus used by a journalist in violation of the prohibition is seized (possible 4.500 euros fine), as I had the opportunity to verify in the courtroom of the 1ª Secção Cível in September 2013 when started the lawsuit opposing the MC family to GA et al in order for the first to obtain € 1,25 million in damages*. If the hearings I attended were taped, it was by the clerk and for restricted use by judge and lawyers.
As justice is public in order to avoid any suspicion and done "in the name of the people", the hearings are (in principle) public. One is authorised to take notes and send tweets. Jon di Paolo twitted in 2010, I used a notepad and a pencil in 2013-14.
Therefore my reports are no "transcripts" of any kind, they're the outcome of my notes, of my good knowledge of the case and of my short-term memory enhanced through concentration. Whoever would have a look at my notepad wouldn't understand anything, nor likely would I. I mixed two foreign languages (Portuguese and English) with my motherly one, French, I don't know how nor exactly why.
I was very careful not to let my notes be too much polluted by idiosyncrasy and opinion, I wasn't there to tell a story about what was happening during the hearings the way journalists, a few with great talent, write chronicles, but to simply give an account of what the protagonists had factually said in the courtroom. As Astro once referred to, I felt responsible for being the ears of the public.
A trial's target is to judge. To judge, one must understand and to understand, one must analyse in depth. The cognitive work associated is extremely costly, and any emotional excess will be a barrier to its realisation.
Like in everyday life, emotion surges in a natural way, without warning, on the corner of a sentence, at the curve of a silence, with the voice inflection, modulation, intonation striking the imagination, fairly often more revealing than words, attention diverted by sighs, impulsions, throat clearing. This unavoidable part of the orality of a trial, fundamental basis of the judiciary ritual, belongs nevertheless to the protagonists' privacy and has no legitimacy for being reproduced outside the scenic situation of a hearing. Unless it were transformed into literature.
* The application came at the end of a long series of lawsuits that started with a May 2009 petition, fully refused as it was understood that the perils of damage had already been consummated, followed by the emergency interim proceedings of June 6 2009. According to the terms of the summons, the MC couple and their three children requested damages given the repeated defamation and the negative influence on the search of the first of the three children of the accidental death/concealment of body thesis, developed in GA's book and documentary.
Over two years before, the Supreme Court had refused the request of review (March 18, 2011), upholding the Appeal Court's decision to overturn the ban of the book (October 14, 2010). Meanwhile the qualification of defamation had been rejected, since the public prosecutor could not establish what had happened to MMC. This didn't not stop the media from continuing to talk of libel whereas it was only a lawsuit to obtain a compensation.