People v. Williams, 2016 IL App (3d) 130901 (April). Episode 178 (Duration 7:30)
Shackling of defendant during bench trial in this child sex case leads to reversal.
The Boose Standard
In general, shackling the accused should be avoided. People v. Boose, 66 Ill. 2d 261, 265 (1977).
“Most of the courts that have considered the question have held that an accused should never be placed in restraints in the presence of the jury ‘unless there is a showing of a manifest need for such restraints.'” See Boose, 66 Ill. 2d at 266.
A defendant may be shackled when there is reason to believe that
- he may try to escape or that
- he may pose a threat to the safety of people in the courtroom or
- if it is necessary to maintain order during the trial.
Further, the trial judge should state for the record his reasons for allowing the defendant to remain shackled, and he should give the defendant’s attorney an opportunity to present reasons why the defendant should not be shackled.
Factors to be considered include, but not limited to…
- Seriousness of the present charge
- Defendant’s temperament and character
- Defendant’s age and physical attributes
- Defendant’s past record
- Past escapes or attempted escapes
- Evidence of a present plan to escape
- Threats to harm others or cause a disturbance
- Self-destructive tendencies
- Risk of mob violence or of attempted revenge by others
- Possibility of rescue by other offenders still at large
- Size and mood of the audience
- Nature and physical security of the courtroom and
- Adequacy and availability of alternative remedies
But This is a Bench Trial?
The number one reason to not shackling an accused during trial is to prevent great prejudice against defendant in the eyes of the trier of fact.
Does this concern during a bench a trial?
Although the possibility of prejudicing the jury is a factor to be considered, the reasons for forbidding shackling are not limited to trials by jury.
Facts in This Case
Here, there is no indication that the trial court conducted a Boose hearing before keeping the defendant in shackles during his bench trial.
Thus, the defendant proved a due process violation which amounted to error by showing that he was required to be restrained without the court having first determined that it was necessary.
OK, But Was Reversal Warranted?
Reversibility under plain error requires a showing that the evidence was closely balanced or that the error was so serious that it affected the fairness of his trial and challenged the integrity of the judicial process.
Reversal was required because this was a close case as it was a credibility contest between Defendant and the child victim.
No Boose Hearing
There is no indication that the the trial court conducted any type of a Boose hearing. In fact, the trial court suggests that the defendant was in shackles due to a blanket policy of the court.
Since there was no evidence of any threats or disturbances in the record, the trial court made the statement that suggests a blanket policy, and there was no hearing for which the court could remand for a more complete record, reversed and remanded for a new trial.
Criminal trials are complicated things. Learn more about what can go wring in a trial.
Also, this child is allowed to testify in the judge’s chambers which could also have been a problem. 725 ILCS 5/115-11 permits a limited closure of a courtroom during the testimony of minors who are the victims of certain sex crimes. See also People v. Falaster, 173 Ill. 2d 220, 226 (1996). The trial court must make a finding that anyone with an interest in the case would also be allowed to go into chambers for the testimony.