The Need and Means to Restrict Spectators from Wearing Buttons at Criminal Trials

By Kitner, Scott | The Review of Litigation, Summer 2008 | Go to article overview

The Need and Means to Restrict Spectators from Wearing Buttons at Criminal Trials


Kitner, Scott, The Review of Litigation


I. INTRODUCTION

In recent years, spectators have begun to wear buttons during criminal trials. These buttons usually display the image of the crime victim.1 Victims' rights supporters argue that such a practice merely supports the memory of the victim.2 Advocates of the criminally accused argue that the purpose of such buttons is to influence the jury to find the defendant guilty.3 As a result, defendants convicted while spectators wore buttons at trial have challenged that spectator conduct as "inherently prejudicial," thereby violating the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection or Due Process Clauses or the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a fair trial.4 Federal circuits are in conflict on whether button wearing (or similar spectator conduct) is "inherently prejudicial."5 The Supreme Court has not addressed this claim.6 This Note addresses the clash between spectators' free speech rights under the First Amendment and the right of the accused to a fair trial under the Sixth Amendment. This Note asserts that wearing buttons at trial is "inherently prejudicial" because it is irrelevant to the fact-finding process and offends courtroom decorum. Wearing buttons at trial should be prohibited.

Part II of this Note explores applications of defendant protections at trial, specifically the Sixth Amendment and the Due Process Clauses. Part III details the negative effects on trial procedure from allowing spectators to wear buttons during trial. Part IV argues that Congress, to avoid slowly nullifying protections for the accused, must ban spectators from wearing buttons or engaging in similar behavior in the courtroom during the guilt phase of jury trials. Absent action from Congress, the Supreme Court should find that wearing buttons during the guilt phase of trial is inherently prejudicial.

II. EVOLUTION OF THE UNITED STATES SUPREME COURT' S STANDARDS GOVERNING PREJUDICIAL COURTROOM PRACTICES

Before assessing the desirability of allowing spectators to wear buttons during criminal trials, it is crucial to understand the evolution of United States Supreme Court precedent concerning behavior during trial. Claims of prejudicial spectator conduct, such as button wearing, potentially involve conduct by state actors and non-state actors. When considering the button issue, it is helpful to understand Supreme Court opinions involving defendants' claims of prejudice stemming from both state actors and non-state actors. Therefore, Part II.A examines practices by state actors during trials and Part II.B examines practices by non-state actors. Part II.C describes the current circuit split concerning spectator behavior.

A. Practices by State Actors During Trial

In a series of cases from 1970 to 2006, the Supreme Court has recognized that certain state courtroom practices are so inherently prejudicial that they deprive a defendant of the right to a fair trial guaranteed under the Sixth Amendment7 and the Due Process Clauses.8

The first such case was Illinois v. Allen9 in 1970, in which the Court ruled on how a state may handle a disruptive defendant at a criminal trial. The trial judge twice removed defendant Allen, on trial for armed robbery, from the courtroom for abusive language and refusal to follow the court's repeated instructions to remain quiet.10 The judge stated that Allen could return to the courtroom if he behaved properly. After the prosecution rested, Allen agreed to behave properly and received permission to return to the courtroom. The jury convicted Allen. Allen appealed, arguing that the Sixth Amendment guaranteed him the absolute right to confront witnesses and that the trial court had unconstitutionally infringed on this right when it ejected Allen from the courtroom. The Sixth Circuit agreed with Allen. The Supreme Court reversed, finding defendants do not have an absolute right to attend trial.11

The Court emphasized that proper administration of criminal justice requires that "dignity, order, and decorum be the hallmarks of all court proceedings. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Need and Means to Restrict Spectators from Wearing Buttons at Criminal Trials
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.