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Name: People v. Esquibel
Case #: B165767
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 8
Opinion Date: 08/29/2008

Temporary exclusion of two spectators during minor witness’s testimony did not violate appellant’s right to a public trial. During appellant’s trial for attempted murder, the trial court excluded two of the defendant’s friends during the testimony of a seven-year-old witness. The witness’s mother was afraid that the friends would subsequently recognize the child in the neighborhood, and she feared for his safety. On appeal following appellant’s conviction, he argued that the exclusion of the two spectators violated his right to a public trial. The appellate court concluded that there was no constitutional violation and that any violation of appellant’s statutory right to an open trial (Pen. Code, sec. 686.2) was not prejudicial. The partial closure of a trial by the temporary exclusion of select supporters of the accused does not create an automatic violation of the right to a public trial. The exclusion was of only two spectators, and other family supporters remained. Further, the exclusion was for a short period of time, and there was no evidence that those two particular spectators were necessary to provide special support to appellant.