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United States Supreme Court Rules That Right To Public Trial In Criminal Cases Extends To Impanelment Process

In January of this year, in the case of Presley v. Georgia the United States Supreme Court ruled that included in the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial is the right to have the courtroom open during the jury selection process. Presley was tried and convicted of Cocaine Trafficking in Georgia. Before the impanelment process began an individual was observed sitting in the courtroom. The person was Presley’s uncle. Over objection the trial judge excluded the defendant’s uncle until after the jury had been chosen. After his conviction Presley appealed to the Georgia appellate courts. Both its Court of Appeals and its Supreme Court affirmed the verdicts. The United States Supreme Court granted certiorari and reversed the Georgia court rulings. In doing so the Supreme Court relied on the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. Included in this right is the jury selection process. The Court in Presley recognized that in an earlier ruling under the First Amendment the public could not be excluded from the jury selection process.

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reaffirmed this rule in Commonwealth v. Cohen. Both the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the United States Supreme Court have suggested that there may be situtations where closure is necessary. In those instances however the trial court must find that the party looking to close the courtroom have an overriding interest that is likely to be prejudiced, the closure must be limited to that need and no more, the trial judge must consider reasonable alternatives and the trial court must make findings supporting the decision to close the courtroom.

Click here to read Presley v. Georgia.


The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman is committed to defending the rights of the accused in Massachusetts and throughout the country. Please call us if you have been charged with a crime or convicted of a crime. We can be reached at 617-263-6800 or you can contact us online.