Another Locked Courtroom Deemed Permissible

15 Aug

The Minnesota Court of Appeals released an unpublished opinion on August 13 stating, among other things, that a “district court’s closing of the courtroom door during its final charge to the jury did not implicate [the defendant’s] right to a public trial.”

The opinion, State v. Cook, is another example of a closed courtroom (albeit only during jury instructions) during a portion of a criminal jury trial in Minnesota being upheld by the state’s appellate courts. In the Cook opinion, the court cited a Minnesota Supreme Court opinion from July 2012 for the principle that “a district court does not implicate a defendant’s right to a public trial when the court locks the courtroom doors during jury instructions; the court never clears the courtroom of all spectators; the court tells the people in the courtroom that they are welcome to stay; the court keeps the trial open to the public and press already in the courtroom; the court does not order the removal of any member of the public, the press, or the defendant’s family; and the jury instructions do not comprise a proportionately large portion of the trial proceedings.”

According to the opinion, the closed portion comprised 40 pages of the 2000-page transcript of the trial.

 

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