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Name: Shewfelt v. State of Alaska
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 10/02/2000
Subsequent History: None
Summary

It was error for the trial court to have played back testimony for the jury during their deliberations, without informing the defendant or allowing him to be present for the playback. The court’s failure to provide the defendant with the opportunity to be present, or in the alternative, to obtain a personal waiver of the right to be present, was a violation of his Sixth Amendment rights. However, the error was “trial error” as opposed to “structural error” and therefore was subject to a harmless error analysis. Shewfelt was not entitled to relief unless the record demonstrated the error had a substantial and injurious effect or influence in determining the jury’s verdict. Here, the government demonstrated that no improper conduct occurred during the playback proceedings, and there were no improper communications with jurors from the court or any other person. The clerk followed the normal replay procedure, and the cross-examination was played as well as the direct testimony. In light of those factors, the government met its burden of demonstrating that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.