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Name: Presley v. Georgia
Case #: Sep-70
Court: US Supreme Court
District USSup
Opinion Date: 01/19/2010
Subsequent History: 130 S.Ct. 721; 175 L.Ed.2d 675
Summary

The trial court is required to consider alternatives to closure of courtroom to public during jury selection. Just before jury selection in Presley’s trial for cocaine trafficking, the trial court instructed a lone courtroom observer to leave. The court questioned the man, and learned he was Presley’s uncle. Presley’s counsel objected to the exclusion of the public from the courtroom, and the court explained that there was not enough room for him, given the number of potential jurors. At a motion for new trial, Presley presented evidence that there was adequate room in the courtroom for Presley’s uncle. The trial court denied the motion for new trial, commenting that it was within its discretion whether to have family members in the courtroom where potential jurors might mingle with them. Presley’s conviction was affirmed by the Georgia Supreme Court which held that the trial courts need not consider alternatives to closure. Presley sought certiorari, claiming that 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. The Court here reversed the Georgia Supreme Court’s decision, holding that the trial courts are required to consider alternatives to closure. The trial courts are obligated to take every reasonable measure to accommodate public attendance at criminal trials. There are circumstances where a judge could conclude that threats of improper communications with jurors or safety concerns are concrete enough to warrant the closing of voir dire, but the court would still be required to consider alternatives to closure. Here, it did not do so and reversal and remand is therefore required.