The 9th Circuit, en banc, just issued a blockbuster 6-5 decision in United States v. Sanchez-Gomez, Appeal No. 13-50562. Routine shackling of defendants in the courtroom violates the 5th Amendment. It doesn’t matter whether there is a jury present or not. The trial court must make an individualized finding of dangerousness. Judge Kozinski, author of the majority opinion, wrote:
The most visible and public manifestation of our criminal justice system is the courtroom. Courtrooms are palaces of justice, imbued with a majesty that reflects the gravity of proceedings designed to deprive a person of liberty or even life. A member of the public who wanders into a criminal courtroom must immediately perceive that it is a place where justice is administered with due regard to individuals whom the law presumes to be innocent. That perception cannot prevail if defendants are marched in like convicts on a chain gang. Both the defendant and the public have the right to a dignified, inspiring and open court process. Thus, innocent defendants may not be shackled at any point in the courtroom unless there is an individualized showing of need. Op. at 25. (Emphasis supplied).
Trial lawyers: Are judges making individualized findings of dangerousness before your clients are shackled?