A Texas judge ruled yesterday that he will let Court TV air live the capital murder trial of former Naval Academy Midshipman Diane Zamora.
Prosecutors had asked that television cameras be kept out of the courtroom, arguing that they would influence jurors and witnesses, some of whom might think less about justice in the high-profile case than being invited onto television talk shows and signing book contracts.
But Tarrant County District Judge Joe Drago said Court TV, a cable network that shows many high-profile trials, could broadcast the trial from beginning to end, as long as it does not film jurors, spectators or family members. Cameras must be locked in one position, facing the judge and witness box.
"That's pretty much what we do anyway," said Lynn Rosenstrach, a spokeswoman in New York for Court TV, which can be seen on TCI Cable in Baltimore and on a handful of other cable channels in Maryland.
"It's certainly a trial of high national interest. It's transcended beyond Texas."
Court TV, which was launched in 1991, frequently goes through legal fights to get its cameras into courtrooms. It telecast the O. J. Simpson murder trial.
Opening the courtroom to television was the latest in a recent spate of developments in the case -- including the release of a book containing the full four-page confession Zamora wrote and signed.
Zamora, 19, is charged with helping her boyfriend -- former Air Force Academy Cadet David Graham -- kill Adrianne Jones, 16, an honor student and track star with whom Graham had had a fling. Jones' body was found three weeks before Christmas 1995 in a field in a Fort Worth suburb.
Jones was beaten and shot twice in the head, but for nine months her killing went unsolved. Zamora and Graham were arrested in September 1996, after Zamora told her academy roommates of the killing. The two are in jail in lieu of $250,000 bond.
Jury selection is to begin Tuesday in Fort Worth, with opening statements starting Feb 2. Attorneys expect the trial to last three to four weeks. Graham goes to trial later.
Events in recent weeks have shown that the trial, with its story lines of young love and betrayal by students at two prestigious military academies, is likely to get the same media attention the Simpson trial did.
"Upon reflection, it became obvious to me that this case is going to be very heavily publicized whether I let cameras in or not," Drago said in yesterday's ruling.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys have expressed concerns that the publicity will make it difficult to find impartial jurors and witnesses in Fort Worth, which is 20 miles north of the suburban communities where Zamora, Graham and Jones lived.
Last week, Assistant District Attorney Mike Parrish asked that the trial be moved to another city where the case received less publicity. Drago denied the request.
That occurred after Zamora's attorney, John Linebarger, accused prosecutors of planning to call witnesses who have been paid to appear on television talk shows and participate in a made-for-television movie, which he said would taint their credibility.
Linebarger asked Drago to force prosecutors to reveal who leaked a copy of Zamora's confession to author Peter Meyer. Drago also denied Linebarger's request.
The legal maneuvering was prompted largely by Meyer's book, "Blind Love: The True Story of the Texas Cadet Murder," which was released Jan. 1 and has a full reprint of Zamora's confession to Texas police, and other previously undisclosed details.
The confession was an account of how she, after learning her boyfriend had slept with the teen-ager, "screamed at him, 'Kill her, kill her.' "
"David promised that he would do that and David never had broken a promise to me before," Zamora wrote in the confession. "The plan was for David to break her neck and sink her body to the bottom of Joe Pool Lake."
Her admission mirrored many of the details in Graham's confession, which was leaked to Texas newspapers soon after his arrest.
The book also reveals new details about Zamora's bull session with two roommates Aug. 24, 1996, when she talked about the killing. The roommates told investigators that Zamora said, "I hated her so much, I would do it again."
The academy remains sensitive about the trial. When discussing Zamora, officials regularly note that she was a midshipman for less than six weeks.
"What happened had nothing to do with the academy," Superintendent Adm. Charles R. Larson said in a recent interview. "I consider it, hopefully, a once-in-a-millennium type of event." Still, Larson expects the trial to reopen some wounds at the academy, which feels it was duped by a women who accepted a coveted slot there after her alleged crime.
"She wrote this beautiful personal essay about truth and honor -- after she had allegedly committed a murder," Larson said. "She was, on paper, a real success story. She had excellent grades, she was an athlete, she came from a poor family, she was a minority. She was exactly the kind of person you're looking for. She would've gotten in anywhere she applied."
Pub Date: 1/15/98