The United States Constitution grants criminal defendants numerous protections and rights. For example, the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution affords people charged with crimes the right to a public trial. If the right is violated and a criminal defendant is tried in a closed courtroom, it may constitute grounds for dismissal. Recently, a Michigan court discussed the right to a public trial and what evidence a defendant must offer to prove their rights were violated. If you were charged with a crime, it is important to understand your rights, and you should speak to a trusted Michigan criminal defense lawyer.
The Facts of the Case
It is reported that the defendant was charged with multiple crimes following a shooting death. The case proceeded to trial, and during a recess, a juror came into contact with the victim’s child’s mother in the hallway. The trial court subsequently removed the woman and all spectators from the courtroom and ordered them not to return for the remainder of the trial. The jury convicted the defendant of multiple felonies. He then appealed and moved to remand the matter for an evidentiary hearing, arguing in part that his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial had been violated.
It is reported that the intermediate appellate court granted his motion. Following the evidentiary hearing, he filed a motion for a new trial which was denied on the grounds that the courtroom was not locked, it was merely cleared, and that even if it was closed, he waived the right to a public trial by failing to object. He then appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.
The Constitutional Right to a Speedy Trial
The Michigan Supreme Court reversed the intermediate appellate court’s ruling and remanded the matter for a new trial. The Supreme Court explained that the trial court’s closure of the courtroom for almost the entire trial due to an isolated and benign interaction between a juror and an observer comprised a clear error. Further, as the deprivation of the defendant’s constitutional right to a public trial was a structural error, it affected the defendant’s rights as a matter of course.
The court then explained that as a structural error, the denial of the defendant’s constitutional right to a public trial presumptively impacted the defendant’s substantive rights, as it significantly affected the public reputation, fairness, and integrity of the trial. As such, it met the plain error standard’s requirements for reversal. As neither the evidence of record nor the prosecution rebutted the presumption, the court found that a reversal of the intermediate court’s ruling was warranted, and it remanded the matter for a new trial.
Confer with an Experienced Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney
Constitutional rights do not end merely because a person is accused of a crime, and if the state violates a criminal defendant’s rights during a trial, it may be grounds for reversing their conviction. If you are charged with a criminal offense, it is prudent to meet with an attorney as soon as possible. Sam Bernstein of ArborYpsi Law is an experienced Michigan criminal defense attorney who takes pride in helping people fight to protect their liberties, and if you hire him, he will work tirelessly on your behalf. You can reach Mr. Bernstein via the form online or by calling (734) 883-9584 to set up a conference.