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Supreme Court rules jury selection must be open to the public

The Supreme Court justices ruled Tuesday, 7 to 2, that jury selection is included in a defendant's right to a public trial. 

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All portions of a criminal trial must be open to the public, including selection of the jury, the US Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday.

In an unusual summary order, the high court ruled 7 to 2 in favor of a convicted cocaine trafficker who claimed that his right to a public trial was violated when a judge in Georgia barred members of the public from the courtroom during jury selection.

At the time, there was only one observer in the courtroom – defendant Eric Presley’s uncle. Mr. Presley’s lawyer objected to excluding members of the public. But the judge said there wasn’t enough room in the courtroom for the 42 prospective jurors as well as public observers.

The judge expressed concern that prospective jurors might say something that could be overheard by the public.

In answer to the lawyer’s objection, the judge said he had discretion to exclude the public from jury selection.

A state appeals court and the Georgia Supreme Court agreed with the judge.

On Tuesday, the US Supreme Court said they were wrong. The court agreed to take up the case and then decided it without requesting additional briefing and oral argument.

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