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Name: People v. Stevens
Case #: S158852
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 11/05/2009
Summary

Stationing a courtroom deputy next to a testifying defendant is not an inherently prejudicial practice. The appellate court rejected Stevens’s contention that the presence of a deputy standing next to him while he testified was akin to a “human shackle” and therefore required justification by a particular need. The California Supreme Court granted review to determine whether placing the deputy sheriff at the witness stand while a defendant testifies requires a showing of need. The Court affirmed the decision of the appellate court, holding that a heightened showing of manifest need is not required to justify the stationing of a security officer near the witness stand. The stationing of a security officer at the witness stand during an accused’s testimony is not an inherently prejudicial practice, but the trial court must exercise its own discretion in ordering such a procedure, and not simply defer to a generic policy. Here, the trial court exercised its own judgment, weighing the matter and concluding that the procedure was appropriate under the circumstances.