The temporary closure of the courtroom to a defendant’s family during jury selection did not violate the right to a public trial because the defense consented, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has ruled. Upholding the 2009 conviction and life sentence of Amilcar Gomez for murder in aid of racketeering and other crimes, the circuit said Eastern District Judge Sterling Johnson (See Profile) did not violate Gomez’s Sixth Amendment rights when he asked the family to step outside because there weren’t enough seats for prospective jurors.
Gomez’s attorney, Scott Auster, “fully acquiesced in the exclusion of the family,” and volunteered to tell the Gomez family to leave, Judges Amalya Kearse (See Profile), Joseph McLaughlin (See Profile) and Jose Cabranes (See Profile) said in United States v. Gomez, 10-1095-cr. “Had there been a timely objection by Gomez to the exclusion of family members, the court might well have adopted an alternative “such as dividing the venire panel to clear more seats in the courtroom,” said Kearse, who wrote for the panel. She added that, even had Johnson’s decision been in error, “it cannot be viewed as one that affected the fairness, integrity and public reputation of judicial proceedings.”