People v. Meeks, 2020 IL App (2d) 180263 (July). Episode 802 (Duration 9:13)
No speedy trial violation here, speedy trial does not “jump back” after an election.[Read more…]
People v. Radford, 2020 IL 123975 (June). Episode 791 (Duration 11:05)
Judge closed the courtroom during jury selection but left a good record on why he did it.
This was a shaken baby case.
Defendant was charged with the murder of his two-year-old daughter. The trial court observed “emotions running high” due to the “nature of the case” when it determined that a partial closure was necessary.
The trial court also expressed concern about the possibility of having to declare a mistrial if members of the public reacted or expressed emotion in a way that impacted the venire.
Two experts presented conflicting testimony regarding the manner of M.R.’s death.
The state’s doctor opined that M.R.’s death was caused by blunt head trauma from child abuse. This doctor observed subgaleal and subdural hemorrhages in the back of M.R.’s head.
She testified that the accidental falls M.R. experienced prior to her death could have caused the subgaleal hemorrhages but that those hemorrhages did not cause the baby’s death.
According to this doctor, the fatal injury was the subdural hemorrhage, which she opined occurred within 24 hours of M.R.’s death.
The defendant’s expert, a forensic pathologist, believed that M.R.’s head injuries were consistent with the accidental falls she experienced prior to her death and opined that the injuries she sustained in those falls caused her death.
She also believed that the subdural injuries directly caused the death.
According to the defense doctor, however, M.R.’s subdural hemorrhage was caused by an injury that she sustained more than 24 hours prior to her death.
The jury acquitted defendant of murder and involuntary manslaughter, but it convicted him of endangering the life or health of a child.
The trial court sentenced defendant to 42 months in prison.
Defendant contends that the trial court violated his sixth amendment right to a public trial by partially closing the courtroom during jury selection. See U.S. Const., amend. VI.
Defendant contends that the trial court committed clear and obvious error when it partially closed the courtroom without his “consent” during jury selection.
He argues that the court failed to provide an adequate justification for its decision beyond recognizing a need to use a larger pool of prospective jurors than normal and to seat them all at the same time. Defendant claims that, because the trial court’s closure does not satisfy Waller’s four factor “overriding interest test,” he is automatically entitled to a new trial.
The sixth amendment to the federal constitution provides an accused with the right to a public trial. U.S. Const., amend. VI.
The United States Supreme Court has recognized that the protections conferred by the public trial guarantee are to
(1) Ensure a fair trial,
(2) Remind the prosecutor and judge of their responsibility to the accused and the importance of their functions,
(3) Encourage witnesses to come forward, and
(4) Discourage perjury.
Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39, 46 (1984).
Trial courts are obligated to take every reasonable measure to accommodate public attendance at criminal trials. Presley v. Georgia, 558 U.S. 209, 215 (2010).
The right to a public trial additionally protects some interests that do not belong solely to the defendant. Weaver v. Massachusetts, 582 U.S. ___, ___, 137 S. Ct. 1899, 1910 (2017).
The public trial right extends to jury selection. Presley, 558 U.S. at 213.
In Waller, the state court ordered a weeklong suppression hearing closed to all persons other than witnesses, court personnel, the parties, and the lawyers. Waller, 467 U.S. at 42.
The trial court overruled the defendants’ objections to the closure of the courtroom.
Upon review, the Supreme Court instructed that “under the Sixth Amendment any closure of a suppression hearing over the objections of the accused must meet the” following tests:
Although the Supreme Court recognized that there would be instances where closure was justified, it noted that “such circumstances will be rare” and ruled that the closure in question was unjustified. Waller, 467 U.S. at 45, 48.
Thereafter, in Presley, the courtroom, in contrast to the instant case, was completely closed to the public during jury selection. Presley, 558 U.S. at 210.
In further contrast to this case, the defendant in Presley objected to the trial court’s closure. On review of the state supreme court’s decision allowing the closure, the Court observed that the state court’s reasoning for the closure would allow a courtroom to be closed during jury selection “ ‘whenever the trial judge decides, for whatever reason, that he or she would prefer to fill the courtroom with potential jurors rather than spectators.’ ” Id. at 215 (quoting Presley v. State, 674 S.E.2d 909, 913 (Ga. 2009)).
Although the Court expressly noted that courtroom closure may be ordered in some circumstances, the Court stated that it was “still incumbent upon” the trial court “to consider all reasonable alternatives to closure.” Id. at 215-16.
Most recently, in Weaver, the trial court excluded from the courtroom any member of the public who was not a potential juror for the two days of jury selection. Weaver, 582 U.S. at ___, 137 S. Ct. at 1906.
The exclusion included the defendant’s mother and his minister, who were turned away when they attempted to attend the jury selection. Id. at ___, 137 S. Ct. at 1906.
As in this case, defense counsel did not object to the closure. The Court ultimately affirmed the conviction, holding that in the context of a public-trial violation during jury selection, where the error is neither preserved nor raised on direct review but is brought later via an ineffective assistance of counsel claim, a defendant must demonstrate prejudice to secure a new trial. Id. at ___, 137 S. Ct. at 1910-11.
Because the defendant had offered no evidence or legal argument that the outcome of his case likely would have differed had the courtroom not been fully closed to the public, he could not prevail on his claim. Id. at ___, 137 S. Ct. at 1912- 13.
The Court stated that its precedent teaches that courtroom closure is to be avoided but that there are some circumstances when it is justified. Id. at ___, 137 S. Ct. at 1909.
The problems that trial courts encounter in deciding whether closures are necessary, or even deciding which members of the public to admit when seats are scarce, are difficult ones. Id. at ___, 137 S. Ct. at 1909.
The Court provided, as an example, that a judge may want to give preliminary instructions to the venire as a whole, rather than repeating those instructions, perhaps with unintentional differences, to several groups of potential jurors.
On the other hand, various constituencies of the public—the family of the accused, the family of the victim, and members of the press, among others—all have interests in observing the selection of jurors. Id. at ___, 137 S. Ct. at 1909. How best for a trial court “to manage these problems is not a topic discussed at length in any decision or commentary the Court has found.” Id. at ___, 137 S. Ct. at 1909.
In People v. Falaster, 173 Ill. 2d 220, 226 (1996), we held that the trial court did not impermissibly close the courtroom when it ordered, pursuant to section 115-11 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of 1963 (725 ILCS 5/115-11 (West 1992)), the removal of several spectators from the courtroom during the testimony of the 14- year-old victim of a sex offense.
See also People v. Pope, 2020 IL App (4th) 180773 (May). Episode 777 (Duration 6:49) (Is It Constitutional To Accept Children’s Testimony Through Closed Circuit Television?)
In Falaster, defendant had argued that the trial court’s order excluding spectators had to satisfy not only the requirements of section 115- 11 but also the limitations established in Waller and Press-Enterprise for the closure of judicial proceedings to the press and public. Falaster, 173 Ill. 2d at 225- 26.
We disagreed and found those limitations did not apply where the trial court had complied with the requirements of section 115-11. Id. at 227-28.
In so ruling, we noted that the persons who were temporarily excluded from the proceedings were not members of the defendant’s immediate family and, thus, did not have a direct interest in the outcome of the case. Id. at 228. The trial court in Falaster also did not impose any restrictions on the media, who were still allowed access to the proceedings.
Consequently, we found that none of the evils of closed trials were implicated.
Similarly, in People v. Holveck, 141 Ill. 2d 84, 101 (1990), we found that the defendant’s right to a public trial was not violated where the trial court had closed the courtroom to spectators during the testimony of alleged child victims of sexual offenses.
The victims’ fathers and a psychologist were allowed to remain in the courtroom, and the media was also permitted to attend.
Although the trial court did not make a formal declaration of the reasons for closure, we found that the record demonstrated the reasons and that the trial judge had adequately balanced the necessary interests and factors before partially closing the courtroom.
Essentially, in this case, defendant asks us to apply the same legal framework that would be applicable to review of a complete courtroom closure, over a defendant’s timely objection.
As the State notes, under defendant’s approach, a new trial would automatically be required whenever the trial court fails to strictly comply with the Waller factors before excluding any spectator from jury selection despite the lack of a contemporaneous objection. Defendant’s faulty approach would be irrespective of the decision’s impact on
A contemporaneous objection is particularly crucial when challenging any courtroom closure.
Defendant’s arguments before us illustrate why.
He criticizes the trial court for not making a more detailed finding of fact to support the closure and for not considering an alternative that would have allowed more members of the public to be present in the courtroom.
Defendant fails to recognize that, if there is no objection at trial, there is no opportunity for the judge to develop an alternative plan to a partial closure or to explain in greater detail the justification for it. See Weaver, 582 U.S. at ___, 137 S. Ct. at 1912.
We further note that the trial court’s partial closure in this case did not occur in a vacuum without defendant’s knowledge. The defense chose the family members who remained in the courtroom each day of jury selection.
The trial court’s decision to limit public access to the courtroom therefore required defendant’s cooperation.
The trial court was aware that this case would require a large venire in order to find a suitable jury and there were only so many seats in the courtroom.
The trial was expected to last two weeks and was to begin prior to the Thanksgiving holiday.
The parties had also listed approximately 50 potential trial witnesses.
Because of these considerations, the trial court, while recognizing defendant’s right to a public trial, attempted to work out a solution. In doing so, the trial court allowed two family members who favored each side to remain in the courtroom during jury selection.
The court also informed the prospective jurors that it had granted a request for media coverage and specifically pointed out the camera in the courtroom. See Holveck, 141 Ill. 2d at 101 (holding that, by allowing the media to attend, the judge preserved the defendant’s sixth amendment right to a public trial; the trial judge considered that the media presence is, in effect, the presence of the public).
After jury selection was complete, the courtroom was open for the remainder of the trial.
The trial court’s decision to partially close the courtroom did not call into question the confidence of the public in the integrity and impartiality of the court system. See People v. Lewis, 234 Ill. 2d 32, 48 (2009) (“Plain-error review focuses on the fairness of a proceeding and the integrity of the judicial process.” (citing Herron, 215 Ill. 2d at 177)).
Dozens of members of the venire who did not become jurors, along with the family members from each side who remained in the courtroom, were able to observe the selection process. They served as the eyes and ears of the public.
There is no assertion that any juror lied or that the State or judge committed misconduct during jury selection, and there was a complete record made of the questioning that took place during the closure.
Under these circumstances, we find the partial closure of the courtroom did not constitute clear or obvious error by depriving defendant of his sixth amendment right to a public trial.
We therefore decline to excuse defendant’s forfeiture.
People v. Markham, 2019 IL App (3d) 180071 (April). Episode 626 (Duration 7:32)
State says overdose immunity should not kick in since defendant was feeling good enough to ask for his wallet and keys.[Read more…]
People v. Rutigliano, 2020 IL App (1st) 171729 (May). Episode 776 (Duration 9:37)
Weirdest case yet, dude loses his shit at a superbowl part and stabs a guy in the eye.Read more