TV viewers to be taken behind the scenes in US murder trial

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The Independent US

Mark Ducic has a reputation for bragging. Indeed, his penchant for over-egging the details of his life will form the basis of his defence at his murder trial which began in Ohio this week.

Mark Ducic has a reputation for bragging. Indeed, his penchant for over-egging the details of his life will form the basis of his defence at his murder trial which began in Ohio this week.

But the circumstances of the trial mean that Mr Ducic may not repent his loud-mouthed ways. Not when his audience is coast to coast.

In an arrangement that legal experts say is unprecedented, the judge has given ABC Television permission to film the proceedings in their entirety. It is the latest in Reality television. Nothing will be off-limits.

While cameras have been in courtrooms for years in the United States, this arrangement is different because of its scope. Viewers of the Ducic episode of a forthcoming series called State v. will be able for the first time to witness the jury's deliberations as well as exchanges in open court. Hitherto, jury rooms have been sacred ground, where no intruding ears or eyes were allowed.

The breakthrough for ABC came when everyone involved in the Ducic trial agreed to allow it, including the judge, the prosecution and the defence team.

The programme will be educational and "very beneficial" for viewers, said David Kohler, a law professor at Southwestern University in Los Angeles. He added: "Historically jury deliberations have been completely private."

Mr Ducic, 53, is accused of administering fatal drug cocktails to a former girlfriend, Barbara Davis, 41, in 2001, and, two years later, to one of her friends, Donald Ehrke, 44. Originally, state officials listed both deaths as accidental drug overdoses. But that was before Mr Ducic started boasting to friends that he had killed them.

John Luskin, a defence lawyer, is expected to argue that Mr Ducic, who faces the death penalty, has a history of lying about his exploits. And the murders were lies too. "He's a freaking 'Walter Mitty', who can't even give his age without lying," he said before the start of the trial on Monday.

The prosecution is worried that Mr Luskin, a former police officer, may play to the cameras. Detective Greg Whitney said: "They're going to put on a show - the Mark Ducic and John Luskin show - but hopefully the judge will control that."

Experts say the real worry should be how the jurors will react to having cameras over their shoulders, especially when the arguments begin over whether to convict.

"What if you are in a minority? Are you going to be so quick to express yourself," wondered Robert Glickman, a judge who was once shown prosecuting a case on the Court TV cable channel.

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