Cameras in courtroom as babysitter pleads not guilty to slayings

The public got its first look this morning at a Naperville woman since her arrest in the stabbing deaths of her 7-year-old son and a 5-year-old girl she was babysitting.

Cameras were allowed inside a DuPage County courtroom as a handcuffed Elzbieta Plackowska stood before a judge and her attorney, Michael Mara, entered a plea of not guilty for her.

Plackowska, dressed in dark blue jail fatigues, said nothing and looked straight ahead as Mara entered the plea to charges that she killed her son, Justin, 7, and Olivia Dworakowski, 5. The hearing was over in about 5 minutes, and Plackowska calmly walked out of the courtroom, escorted by deputies.

One video camera and one photographer were allowed to record the proceedings. The arraignment was the first recorded court hearing in the six-county area. The county's experiment didn't cover all the angles, at least the first time.


Agreeing with a suggestion from Mara, Judge Robert Kleeman decided against having photographers near the witness box for the arraignment, as planned.

Their presence — about eight feet to the judge's left and within the field of vision of the judge, court reporter and lawyers — could affect the proceeding, Kleeman said.

"Putting a camera in that position will be distracting," the judge said.

Kleeman allowed two photographers — one still photographer and one video operator — to be positioned next to the jury box. The spot is farther from the bench and not within any of the participants' peripheral vision.

From that vantage, Plackowska, her attorney and prosecutors all had their backs to the cameras as they stood before Kleeman.

Kleeman's order applied only to Wednesday's proceeding.  Other judges could opt to allow the two sets of photographers in future cases where extended media coverage has been requested, DuPage court officials said.

Earlier this year, the Illinois Supreme Court authorized a pilot program to study the issue and about two dozen counties are participating.

Plackowska, 40, has been held without bond in the DuPage County Jail since her arrest Oct. 30. She was indicted on 10 counts of first-degree murder in the stabbing of her son dozens of times, allegedly because she was unhappy in her relationship with her husband.

Olivia, whom Plackowska was baby-sitting, was stabbed to death because she witnessed the boy's slaying, prosecutors said.

Plackowska also was charged with two counts of aggravated cruelty for killing two family dogs in the attack, which took place in the Naperville town house of Dworakowski's mother, authorities said.