Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Right to a Public Trial

The United States Supreme Court ruled this week that the right to a public trial is violated by excluding the public from jury selection. In a case out of Georgia, Presley v. Georgia, a single spectator (the defendant's uncle) was present in the court room prior to the jury pool entering the court. The trial judge informed him that he would have to leave the court and also would have to leave the entire floor. He was informed that he would be permitted to return after a jury had been selected.

The defendant's lawyer objected to the exclusion of the public and set up an appeal that ultimately landed in the U.S. Supreme Court. The Court held, in a rare win for criminal defendants, that the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial extended to the jury selection phase of the trial. The case was reversed and remanded back to Georgia for a new trial. It was an unsigned, per curium, opinion so we can't see which justices voted which way. It would have been interesting to analyze that.

Still, sometimes they do the right thing.



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