Dane County judge blocks full media access to high-profile double homicide case

TV cameras can only keep 10 seconds of footage and must delete everything else, per judge's ruling

MADISON, Wis. — The judge presiding over the case of a man accused of murdering a doctor and her husband in the UW Arboretum in 2020 has limited TV stations to broadcasting only 10 seconds of an hours-long hearing in the case on Thursday.

Judge Ellen Berz also ruled all other recordings must be deleted within 24 hours.

Khari Sanford, one of two men accused of the March 2020 murders of Dr. Beth Potter and Robin Carre, faces two counts of first-degree intentional homicide as a party to a crime.

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The decision comes after Assistant District Attorney William Brown asked the judge to prohibit live streaming of the court proceedings. Brown said this was to ensure that witnesses would feel comfortable testifying, especially after the heavily-publicized murder trial of Chandler Halderson.

In response, Judge Ellen Berz banned both live streaming and any taped video longer than a single 10-second clip, meaning public access to the proceedings is limited to those who were in court Thursday and the record the court keeps itself.

“It’s a fairly serious constraint that she is putting on the media’s ability to do its job,” said Bill Lueders, president of the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council.

“I think Judge Ellen Berz here has issued a fairly extraordinary order in saying that media outlets who record the proceedings that happened in her court today are only allowed to use 10 seconds of it, and then destroy it afterwards,” he added. “That is very unusual.”

News 3 Now is among a group challenging the judge’s order, which includes two other Madison TV stations and broadcast news advocacy groups. The judge has set a hearing for the media rules for April 15.

More than just allowing cameras access to see inside the proceedings, Lueders said allowing that access is about maintaining public accountability in the court system.

“The public has a right to know how the court system operates and to have these proceedings be visible and be broadcast — that’s a well-respected right in Wisconsin and throughout the nation,” he said.

“We’re very concerned by the notion that this will not be allowed, and that the public will not be able to see what happens in the court proceeding as it happens,” Lueders added.