Witness-Intimidation Instagram Prompts Possibility of Cellphone Ban

Watching the fallout from the reveal of the World's Scariest Instagram Account.

Photo | Shutterstock.com

Photo | Shutterstock.com

The First Judicial District is considering banning cell phones inside courtrooms after the Inquirer revealed an Instagram account that identified and provided information on witnesses in criminal cases.

The “rats215” Instagram account was shut down by the company after requests from the District Attorney’s office. Current court policy requires phones to be turned off and not within sight, a policy easily broken.

“Even with the policy in place, we know there are still abuses happening, which is why we’re looking at the possibility of changing it altogether,” [court spokesman Frank Keel] said. “It’s virtually impossible to prevent people from quickly and surreptitiously taking photographs with their cell phones.”

Keel warns that cell-phone bans haven’t worked perfectly in other cities…

If you’ve been to the Criminal Justice Center, you know how frenzied it is every single day. The only two possibilities for restriction are that A) You couldn’t bring the phone into the CJC at all, which would be incredibly impractical for everyone who relies on a cellphone to communicate during a time as crucial as the before and after of a court case, or, B) Everyone would leave their phones at the CJC desk essentially creating an additional line to both leave and retrieve your phone, which would turn the CJC from frenzied to suffocating and would smack of TSA logistics. You could hire an additional guard to watch the pews at all times, but that’s both weird and expensive.

Which is to say, if you have a brilliant, completely unexpected solution to stopping cellphones from being used for witness intimidation in Philadelphia, please post them in the comments and we will make sure they get to all the appropriate parties. [Newsworks]