As reported by several news sites, the U.S. Supreme Court (SCT) today in Presley v. Georgia decided that a defendant has a constitutional right to an open voir dire.
In Presley, the defendant claimed that his 6th Amendment right to a public trial was violated when the trial court excluded his uncle from voir dire. The SCT, following its prior decision in Press Enterprise v. Superior Court where it held that the public has a First Amendment right to view a trial, found that the defendant has a 6th Amendment right to a public trial.
The Court determined that "there is no legitimate reason, at least in the context of jury selection proceedings, to give one who asserts a First Amendment privilege greater rights to insist on public proceedings than the accused has."
The Court went on to say that "the right to an open trial may give way in certain cases to other rights or interests." However, the Court noted that "trial courts are required to consider alternatives to closure when they are not offered by the parties." The trial court in Presley never took this step.
The dissent filed by Justices Thomas and Scalia disagreed with the summary nature by which the case was decided. The dissenters further argued that the majority opinion "decides by implication an unstated premise: that jury voir dire is part of the 'public trial' that the 6th Amendment guarantees."