Last week, the United States Supreme Court issued a per curiam decision stressing the importance of criminal trials being open to the public throughout all its stages. A per curiam decision is one that is based on written pleadings without any oral arguments being heard. The case involved Eric Presley, who was convicted of trafficking cocaine in Georgia. He challenged his conviction on the basis that the public, namely his uncle, were excluded from the courtroom during the jury voir dire process. The judge believed that there was not enough room in the courtroom and did not want his uncle sitting next to a juror and possibly tainting the jury. The Georgia Supreme Court upheld the conviction but was divided on the issue. The United States Supreme Court disagreed and ruled that the trial court had an affirmative duty to seek alternatives to preserve the notion of open trials. They stated that the public has a First Amendment right to have access to the court proceedings and the defendant had a Sixth Amendment right to a public jury selection. The court held that "trial courts are obligated to take every reasonable measure to accommodate public attendance at criminal trials." They also stated that "the public has the right to be present whether or not any party has asserted the right." The dissent, lead by Justice Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia, criticized the majority for deciding the issue without hearing oral arguments.
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