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Justices Uphold Right To Attend Criminal Trials


In Richmond Newspapers v. Virginia, the U.S. Supreme Court asserts that the public and the press have a First Amendment right to observe criminal trials. The justices say this right is not absolute, but can be restricted only if the judge decides there are no other means to protect the defendant’s right to a fair trial. The other means include a change of venue, jury sequestration, extensive questioning of potential jurors, trial postponement, emphatic jury instructions, and gag orders on trial participants. The Court says open trials help maintain public confidence in the justice system. In 1984, the Court extends its ruling to jury selection. In Press-Enterprise Co. v. Superior Court of California, the justices rule that the right to attend criminal trials includes the right to attend jury selection.