Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division
APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF McDONALD COUNTY. Honorable John R. LePage, Judge.
REVERSED AND REMANDED.
For Appellant: Emmett D. Queener.
For Respondent: Chris Koster and Karen L. Kramer.
DANIEL E. SCOTT, J. -- OPINION AUTHOR. WILLIAM W. FRANCIS, JR., C.J., P.J. -- CONCURS. JEFFREY W. BATES, J. -- CONCURS.
DANIEL E. SCOTT, J.
REVERSED AND REMANDED
Johnny Davis appeals his convictions for kidnapping and first-degree assault. He complains, in part, that closing the courtroom during voir dire violated his right to a public trial. We agree.
Thirty years ago in Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39, 45-48, 104 S.Ct. 2210, 81 L.Ed.2d 31 (1984), the Supreme Court affirmed that public criminal trial guarantees extended to voir dire and pretrial hearings, and described a four-part test for courts to assure that any " rare" closure would pass constitutional muster.
Four years ago, reiterating that " Waller provided standards for courts to apply before excluding the public from any stage of a criminal trial," the Court reversed a conviction because the trial judge, citing limited space, closed voir dire to the public without considering all reasonable alternatives. Presley v. Georgia, 558 U.S. 209, 213-16, 130 S.Ct. 721, 175 L.Ed.2d 675 (2010).
Last year, in a case " similar to Presley," this court found " that the trial court did not follow the procedure necessary to close a courtroom to the public during voir dire ." State v. Salazar, 414 S.W.3d 606, 613 (Mo.App. 2013). We declined to reverse only because the record failed to show that anyone " was actually prevented from attending voir dire by the trial court's actions." Id. That is not true in this case. We reverse and remand.
The Sixth Amendment right to a public trial extends to voir dire. Presley, 558 U.S. at 213. It may yield to other interests in " rare" instances, such as a need to protect sensitive information, but " the balance of interests must be struck ...