Warren Jeffs appeared Tuesday for a hearing on the charges the FLDS leader is facing as an alleged accomplice to rape.
Going into the hearing I was looking forward to another chance to photograph the elusive Warren Jeffs, though it would prove to be less thrilling than photographing his first three-minute court appearance in Las Vegas three months ago.
This time, Jeffs seemed very aware of my camera, especially when I pointed it toward him. He appeared calm and collected the entire time I was in the courtroom, nearly expressionless.
Backing up a bit, a lot of planning went into the photo coverage of this hearing. Leading the planning effort … no … the guy who set it all up was Doug Pizac, the Associated Press photographer based in Salt Lake City.
Doug is all about the details. A week before the hearing he sent me an e-mail with a map of the courtroom detailing how things would work, where Jeffs would be sitting, and where I would be shooting from. His work on the logistics was invaluable and resulted in great, timely coverage of the hearing.
Four news outlets would split up the still photography pool. As I’ve written about before, news outlets will form a pool to share the coverage of situations where there isn’t room or the ability to accommodate everyone.
For example, say the governor is going to fly on a helicopter to tour flood damage in St. George. There are four photographers but only one seat on the chopper. One photographer from the news outlets covering the event will take the seat and share their photographs with the other outlets in the pool. In Utah courtrooms, pool photo coverage is the norm.
Since this was such a big trial and everyone wanted a chance to photograph Jeffs, Doug’s plan would entail a rotating pool. Doug would shoot the first two hours, followed by me. Next shift would go to the Daily Spectrum (St. George) and the last shift to the Deseret Morning News.
Doug had positioned the pool photographer in the best position to photograph the defendant (Jeffs), the attorneys, the judge, the gallery and even the witness stand. Photographing the witness stand would be mostly off-limits, however. This being a case alleging rape, there is an alleged victim. And for reasons of privacy, professional news outlets don’t generally name rape victims. So shooting the victim would be out of bounds, especially once the judge, James Shumate, issued an order forbidding photos of her and her family. Shumate rejected our (Doug’s) petition to photograph the victim in an unidentifiable way (her hands or something).
At the same time, Shumate had approved a remote camera that Doug set up with a tight shot at the witness stand and was triggered wirelessly from outside the courtroom. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to use it Tuesday, as the day’s witnesses were the victim and two of her sisters.
Things would work like this: Doug would shoot the first two hours, then I would jump in and take the pool spot. Immediately, Doug would begin transmitting his images to all pool outlets and worldwide through the AP feed. Doug had a computer set up with wireless Internet in the cry room adjoining the courtroom. From there, he could send photos and watch the proceedings (and trigger the remote witness camera) through a large glass window. When my shift was over (at the lunch break), Doug would make copies of my photographs and send them out. Through the day, from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., he sat at that computer moving photographs. No lunch. Maybe a bathroom break, but I’m not sure. I didn’t ask him about that.
More in part two…