Constitutional Law

Inmate's Guilty Plea Is Overturned Because Proceeding Was Held in Prison Chapel

A Texas inmate who pleaded guilty to assaulting a prison guard in a court hearing held in a prison chapel will get a new trial because the proceedings were not open to the public.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled on behalf of Conrad Lilly, who pleaded guilty after a trial judge rejected his request to transfer the case to a real courthouse, according to Texas Lawyer’s Tex Parte Blog. The court opinion (PDF) found a violation of Lilly’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial.

The court did not reach Lilly’s claim that the prison chapel proceedings violated the establishment clause.

The prison chapel has served as a branch courthouse in Jones County, but the state will no longer use it for court cases because of the ruling, Tex Parte says.

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