Law School Case Brief
Presley v. Georgia - 558 U.S. 209, 130 S. Ct. 721 (2010)
The Sixth Amendment right to a public trial extends to the voir dire of prospective jurors.
Defendant Eric Presley was convicted of a cocaine trafficking offense in Georgia state court. The conviction was affirmed by the Supreme Court of Georgia. Presley filed a petition for certiorari, claiming his Sixth and Fourteenth Amendment right to a public trial was violated when the trial court excluded the public from the voir dire of prospective jurors. Specifically, the trial court directed Presley's relative, the sole observer, to leave the courtroom so that prospective jurors could be seated without their inadvertent comments being overheard. The Supreme Court of the United States granted Presley certiorari and his motion for leave to proceed in forma pauperis.
Does one's right to a public trial extended to voir dire proceedings?
The Supreme Court of the United States held that Presley's right to a public trial extended to voir dire, and the trial court improperly failed to consider reasonable alternatives to closing the voir dire to the public in addressing the trial court's concerns. Precedent established that the public could assert the right to be present during voir dire and Presley, for whose benefit the right to a public trial was granted, could not be barred from asserting the same right. Further, even if the trial court's concerns warranted the closure of voir dire to the public, the trial court was required to consider alternatives to closure regardless of Presley's failure to offer any alternative.
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