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Name: People v. Pena
Case #: E052558
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 07/13/2012

The public and the defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to a public trial was not violated when the defendants’ family was excluded from the final portion of the trial based on reports from two jurors that the family was following them outside of court. In this trial of gang related charges, two jurors informed the court clerk that they believed defendants’ family members were following them and that it made them uncomfortable. The judge excluded the family members during the last 30 minutes of testimony, closing argument, and jury instruction. The appellate court found no error. The United States Supreme Court has made it clear that the right to an open trial may give way to such interests as the defendant’s right to a fair trial. (Waller v. Georgia (1984) 467 U.S. 45.) Here, the trial court identified three interests that it found that prevailed over the right to an open trial: the right of the defendants to a fair trial; the right of the jurors to feel free of intimidation; and the right of jurors to an undelayed conclusion of their duty as jurors. The exclusion, coming at the end of the trial, was found to be de minimis and no broader than necessary to protect these three interests. Considering other alternatives, exclusion was reasonable under the circumstances.