When Naperville babysitter Elzbieta Plackowska pled not guilty to the murder of two young children, she did so in front of cameras, which were allowed in a DuPage County courtroom for the first time in the county’s history.
The arraignment, which lasted less than five minutes, was the first televised criminal proceeding of a Chicago metro area court case.
“Everything went smoothly,” DuPage County Chief Judge John Elsner said after the hearing.
Plackowska did not speak during the arriagnment, and Assistant Public Defender Michael Mara entered the plea on her behalf.
Plackowska faces 10 counts of murder after she allegedly fatally stabbed her 7-year-old son and a 5-year-old girl whom she was babysitting on October 30.
Cameras were allowed in court as part of a new Illinois Supreme Court policy that seeks to make court proceedings more widely accessible. One television camera and one still camera were allowed to document the arraignment by Judge Robert Kleeman, who presided over the hearing. Judge Kleeman rejected two additional media requests for a greater camera presence.
DuPage County is the 23rd Illinois county to allow camera documentation in court, but it became the first county in the Chicago metro area to allow such media coverage.
Plackowska and State’s Attorney Robert Berlin did not object to the camera presence, and Berlin said they didn’t affect the proceeding.
“The arraignment was like any other arraignment we do in this building,” Berlin said. “Honestly, I didn’t even notice the cameras.”
Although Illinois is trying to make it easier for the public to have access to court proceedings, Berlin said people need to be aware that what happens in a courtroom is serious business, not entertainment.
The integration of cameras into the courtroom has been successful in other Illinois counties, and their presence in DuPage County could open the door for expanded media coverage in more Chicago-area court cases, said Supreme Court spokesman Joseph Tybor.
“DuPage is a stepping stone to Chicago,” Tybor said.
Illinois Attorney Brett Appelman Comments
In America we value our court system as one of best and fairest in the world. Part of that commitment to fairness is that our courts are open; everything is done in public, and anyone who wants to can go to the courthouse and see all of the proceedings for themselves.
As an expansion of that desire for openness, many courts have begun to allow cameras and reporters inside the courtroom. Chicago and the Chicago area have never before allowed cameras into the courtroom to tape the proceedings, but today’s recording is a big step in expanding that openness to television audiences. Even if you can’t make it to the court, you will still be able to view exactly what goes on in the courtroom through your television.”