Editor’s column: Why we requested a camera in the courtroom

From the Coloradoan (Fort Collins):  Reginald Loewen, the Fort Collins man who left the scene of a crash that paralyzed Poudre High’s Connor Walsh, was sentenced earlier this month to six months in jail and three years of supervised probation.

Walsh, now 17, was at the sentencing. He sat at the back of the courtroom in his wheelchair, with family, who requested that Loewen serve the maximum sentence of six years in prison.

“He left me there to die,” Walsh said.

The junior suffered a broken back in the March hit-and-run. He is immobile, incontinent and in chronic pain.

Walsh and his family have graciously allowed us to participate in his recovery. It is an important story for us to share.

We so value our outdoor space, to bike and run and walk to school. And yet there is a real feeling that our roads aren’t safe enough. That people don’t pay enough attention. That our city is getting so crowded conflicts are becoming all the more common.

Traffic fatalities in Larimer County have soared this year. There have been 32 to date in 2015, compared to 24 in all of 2013 and 2014. Four of those killed in 2015 were pedestrians or cyclists.

Last week, we asked that a photographer attend Loewen’s sentencing with our reporter.

The words matter. But images can and do often say much more than what we read on pages and smartphones.

On Friday, despite the Walshes’ consent, our request to photograph the sentencing was denied on grounds that we would “unduly detract from the solemnity, decorum and dignity of the court proceedings.”

The decision is entirely within the court’s purview. Each judge can decide who is allowed to enter his or her courtroom.

We’ve recently requested and been granted access to a courtroom for still photographer in two high-profile hit-and-run cases — Theresa O’Connor, who last year was sentenced to one year in jail for a fatal hit-and-run of a cyclist, and Peggy Brown, who was sentenced to four years of supervised probation for hitting a cyclist and leaving the scene. That cyclist, Jeff Wicks, fortunately survived.

Visit the Coloradoan for more.

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