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News outlets seek access to video evidence in Capitol riot cases

A judge will decide if the Justice Department must provide media access to all videos presented as evidence in US Capitol riot criminal cases.

CNN and 13 other major news outlets went to the chief judge of the DC District Court on Monday requesting access to videos that have become evidence in many of those cases.

The other news organizations seeking access are ABC, The Associated Press, BuzzFeed News, CBS, the Wall Street Journal, Gannett, NPR, NBC News, The New York Times, ProPublica, The Washington Post and broadcasters Gray Media Group and Tegna.

Much of the police body camera and other footage used so far in the Capitol riot cases hasn’t been seen by the media or the public, for reasons including court access restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic, technological challenges, the massive ongoing investigation and the Justice Department’s own refusals.

But judges have watched many videos during the court proceedings, and used video evidence in several cases to decide whether to keep Capitol riot defendants in jail.

“Lack of public access to these judicial proceedings is widespread,” the media coalition wrote to Chief Judge Beryl Howell on Monday. “Delayed access to these historic records shuts the public out of an important part of the administration of justice.”

Howell gave the Justice Department less than two days to respond in court.

Previously, the same media coalition won access to body camera and surveillance footage allegedly showing a Pennsylvania man spraying chemicals in the faces of Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick and others. But that release didn’t come until weeks after prosecutors first showed the videos during a court hearing.

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