Guy Waller v. State of Georgia Docket No. 83-321 Clarence Cole, et al. v. State of Georgia Docket No. 83-322 467 U.S. 39, 81 L.Ed.2d 31, 104 S.Ct. 2210 ( 1984) Argued March 27, 1984. Decided May 21, 1984.
Although the Supreme Court had ruled earlier, in Gannett v. DePasquale ( 1979), that Sixth Amendment rights were personal to the accused and did not apply to the general public and so not to the media, it had never before considered the impact of denying to the accused the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. Here, a pretrial proceeding was closed over the objections of the accused (all thirty-six of them). The specific question facing the Court was whether the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial applies to the particular pretrial proceeding at issue: a suppression of evidence hearing.
The Court also was asked to address several related questions. May a suppression hearing be closed -- over the objection of the accused -- to protect asserted privacy rights of unindicted persons whose telephone conversations were recorded on police wiretaps? Are privacy interests of these persons substantial? If so, should an attempt be made to protect those interests by means short of closure? If no such means can be found, then should closure be ordered only while the tapes are being played and not for the entire suppression hearing?
Based on a series of rulings that begins with Nebraska v. Stuart ( 1976) and includes Gannett v. DePasquale ( 1979), Richmond v. Virginia ( 1980), Globe v. Superior Court ( 1982), and Press-Enterprise Co. v. Riverside ( 1984), Guy Waller and Clarence Cole argued that suppression hearings should be closed only after a finding of compelling justification and unavoidable necessity. The trial court, they said, made no finding that the privacy interests at