Public Health

Unvaccinated lawyer has to wear mask at client's trial after top state court refuses to intervene

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A criminal defense lawyer in Augusta, Maine, has to wear a mask in his client’s jury trial this week after the state’s top court refused to consider his claim that the face covering would prejudice jurors.

Lawyer Darrick X. Banda had contended that the mask was akin to a “scarlet letter” or a “dunce cap,” the Bangor Daily News reports.

He said he didn’t have time to get vaccinated after the court system said July 1 unvaccinated people would have to wear masks.

According to the Bangor Daily News, Banda had supplied proof of a negative COVID-19 test to the trial judge, who said court rules don’t allow him to allow exceptions to the mask requirement.

Banda isn’t the first person to challenge coronavirus restrictions by the courts in Maine, according to the Bangor Daily News.

Defendant Noah Gaston challenged social distancing rules that allowed his victim’s family to testify by video during his sentencing for murder. He also challenged rules that required his family and friends to view the proceedings from a separate room.

Gaston’s lawyers alleged a violation of his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial and to confront witnesses.

But the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled in April that the confrontation clause does not apply to sentencing, according to prior coverage by the Bangor Daily News. The top state court also said the judge “properly considered Gaston’s constitutional rights while balancing the safety restrictions needed during the pandemic.”

A second criminal defense lawyer, Stephen Smith of Augusta, Maine, had objected to rules that required his client, who is Black, to wear a mask before an all-white jury. The client was convicted of murder.

An appeal on the mask issue is pending, according to the Bangor Daily News.

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