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Right to Be Present – Voir Dire

State v. George S. Tulley, 2001 WI App 236
For Tulley: Patrick M. Donnelly

Issue: Whether excluding defendant and his attorney from in camera voir dire of several jurors was reversible error.

Holding: A defendant has both constitutional and statutory rights to be present, with assistance of counsel, at voir dire, and the trial court therefore erred in excluding them from the in camera proceedings. ¶6. However, deprivation of these rights is not subject to automatic-reversal and, largely because the court excluded the jurors interviewed in camera, the error was harmless. ¶11. State v. Harris, 229 Wis. 2d 832, 601 N.W.2d 682 (Ct. App. 1999) distinguished.

Beyond narrowly distinguishing Harris on the facts, the court cites no authority for the idea that denial of assistance of counsel at a critical stage is subject to harmless error analysis.

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