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Name: United States v. Yazzie
Case #: 12-10165
Court: US Court of Appeals
District 9 Cir
Opinion Date: 02/27/2014
Summary

District court did not violate defendants’ Sixth Amendment right to public trial by closing courtroom during testimony of minor sexual molest victims. In a consolidated opinion, the Ninth Circuit addressed the claims of defendants Yazzie and George that the trial court erred by closing the courtroom during the testimony of several minors who were the victims of sexual abuse. Held: Affirmed. The Sixth Amendment guarantees an accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial. However, the right is not absolute. In Waller v. Georgia (1984) 467 U.S. 39, the court identified factors to consider on a case-by-case basis, in evaluating a request to close a courtroom. First, the party seeking closure must “advance an overriding interest that is likely to be prejudiced.” Protecting a minor victim from the trauma of giving testimony regarding sexual abuse and facilitating the minor’s ability to communicate information are compelling higher values that may warrant closure. Second, the closure must be no greater than required to protect that interest. Third, the court should consider reasonable alternatives to closure. Fourth, the court should make factual findings regarding the necessity for closure. In the cases at issue, the district courts considered and correctly implemented the Waller factors in closing the courtroom only during testimony of the minor victims.