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Amdt6.3.1 Overview of Right to a Public Trial

Sixth Amendment:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees criminal defendants the right to be tried in public.1 The Supreme Court has interpreted this right to apply to criminal trials and certain important pre-trial proceedings,2 although the Court has also recognized that the right is subject to limitation where overriding interests require the exclusion of all or some members of the public from the courtroom.3 The Sixth Amendment public trial right only protects the defendant,4 but members of the public have the right to attend criminal proceedings under the First Amendment.5 The Supreme Court has carefully avoided calling the First and Sixth Amendment public trial rights coextensive.6 The Court has made clear, however, that the Sixth Amendment offers criminal defendants at least as much protection from closed proceedings as the First Amendment offers the public.7 To a more limited extent, the Court has also determined that due process plays some role in protecting the accused from secret proceedings.8

Presley v. Georgia, 558 U.S. 209, 212 (2010). As noted elsewhere, the Court held the public trial right applicable against the states in In re Oliver, 333 U.S. 257, 272–73 (1948). See Amdt14.S1.4.1 Overview of Incorporation of the Bill of Rights (discussing the due process clause and incorporation). back
Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39, 46–47 (1984). back
Id. at 48. back
See Gannett Co. v. DePasquale, 443 U.S. 368, 391 (1979) back
Richmond Newspapers, Inc. v. Virginia, 448 U.S. 555, 580 (1980); see Amdt1.9.1 Overview of Freedom of the Press to Amdt1.10.1 Historical Background on Freedoms of Assembly and Petition (discussing public trial rights). back
Presley, 558 U.S. at 212–13. back
Id. back
See Levine v. United States, 362 U.S. 610, 616 (1960); see also Fifth Amendment (discussing procedural due process rights on confessions in criminal cases). back