≡ Menu

Eric Pressley v. Georgia, USSC No. 09–5270, 1/19/10

US Supreme  Court decision

Public Trial – Closing Courtroom for Voir Dire
Sixth Amendment right to a public trial in criminal cases extends to jury selection phase. Failure to consider alternatives to closure violated this right (“trial courts are required to consider alternatives to closure even when they are not offered by the parties”). Nor did the lower court identify any “overriding” interest in favor of closure:

There are no doubt circumstances where a judge could conclude that threats of improper communications with jurors or safety concerns are concrete enough to warrant closing voir dire. But in those cases, the particular interest, and threat to that interest, must “be articulated along with findings specific enough that a reviewing court can determine whether the closure order was properly entered.” Press-Enterprise I, supra, at 510; see also Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of Cal., County of Riverside478 U. S. 1, 15 (1986) (“The First Amendment right of access cannot be overcome by the conclusory assertion that publicity might deprive the defendant of [the right to a fair trial]”).