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Constitutional Law

Secret Jury-Select Plan Appealed in Casey Anthony Murder Case; Similar Issue Wins Reversal in Wash.

Posted May 3, 2011 6:16 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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As some media organizations today appealed a Florida judge's rules for offsite jury selection in an upcoming high-profile murder trial, an appeals court in a different state yesterday reversed an unrelated murder conviction because the trial judge briefly closed the courtroom during jury selection.

The appeal concerning secret jury selection in the upcoming Casey Anthony murder trial does not involve all of the media organizations that objected to the confidentiality rules, the Orlando Sentinel reports.

That's at least in part because a number of those that objected apparently saw merit in Orange-Osceola Chief Judge Belvin Perry's argument that an appeal would only further delay the trial of Anthony, 25, in the death of her 2-year-old daughter.

Meanwhile, a Washington state appellate court faced with a similar issue in an unrelated case reversed a second-degree murder conviction because the judge had closed a crowded courtroom during jury selection over a lack of space, the Seattle Times reports.

It found that Joseph Njonge was denied his constitutional right to a public trial by King County Superior Court Judge Laura Middaugh's handling of jury selection. Even though no one, including the defendant's counsel, objected at the time to closing the courtroom, the judge should have held a hearing first to consider objections, the appellate panel said.

The government plans to appeal the reversal of Njonge's conviction.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Judge to Media: Sign Confidentiality Pact to Find Out Where Casey Anthony Jury Selection Will Occur"

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