Why is the case important?
Members of the media sought access to a courtroom during a murder trial.
Facts of the case
“On the night of June 16, 1962, a man later identified by a witness as Bob Granville Pointer entered a 7-11 Food Store and robbed the manager, Kenneth W. Phillips, of more than $300. The man then fled the store, and Phillips observed him talking to another man at a nearby intersection. A police dog led officers across the street from the 7-11 store to the front yard of a nearby residence, where Pointer was standing. A search of Pointer’s person revealed eighty-one dollars in his billfold, and a later search revealed sixty-five dollars hidden in a discarded shoe.The police arrested Pointer and Lloyd Earl Dillard and took them before a state judge for a preliminary hearing
Whether a criminal trial itself may be closed to the public upon the unopposed request of a defendant, without any demonstration that closure is required to protect the defendant’s superior right to a fair trial, or that some other overriding consideration requires closure?
“The majority first observed the historical evidence demonstrates conclusively that at the time when our organic laws were adopted, criminal trials both here and in England had long been presumptively open. This is no quirk of history
To work effectively, it is important that society’s criminal process ‘satisfy the appearance of justice,’ and the appearance of justice can best be provided by allowing people to observe it.
People in an open society do not demand infallibility from their institutions, but it is difficult for them to accept what they are prohibited from observing. When a criminal trial is conducted in the open, there is at least an opportunity both for understanding the system in general and its workings in a particular case.
Despite the history of criminal trials being presumptively open since long before the Constitution, the State presses its contention that neither the Constitution nor the Bill of Rights contains any provision which by its terms guarantees to the public the right to attend criminal trials. Standing alone, this is correct, but there remains the question whether, absent an explicit provision, the Constitution affords protection against exclusion of the public from criminal trials.
The Bill of Rights was enacted against the backdrop of the long history of trials being presumptively open. Public access to trials was then regarded as an important aspect of the process itself
The First Amendment goes beyond protection of the press and the self-expression of individuals to prohibit government from limiting the stock of information from which members of the public may draw.’ Free speech carries with it some freedom to listen. ‘In a variety of contexts this Court has referred to a First Amendment right to `receive information and ideas.’ What this means in the context of trials is that the First Amendment guarantees of speech and press, standing alone, prohibit government from summarily closing courtroom doors which had long been open to the public at the time that Amendment was adopted. ‘For the First Amendment does not speak equivocally. . . . It must be taken as a command of the broadest scope that explicit language, read in the context of a liberty-loving society, will allow.’
Moreover, the right of access to places traditionally open to the public, as criminal trials have long been, may be seen as assured by the amalgam of the First Amendment guarantees of speech and press
The right of peaceable assembly is a right cognate to those of free speech and free press and is equally fundamental. People assemble in public places not only to speak or to take action, but also to listen, observe, and learn
Despite the fact that this was the fourth trial of the accused, the trial judge made no findings to support closure
terest articulated in findings, the trial of a criminal case must be open to the public.
The Court held that the Sixth Amendment’s guaranty protecting an accused’s right to confront the witnesses against him was made obligatory on the states by the Fourteenth Amendment , and based on the facts of the case at hand, the Court concluded that the use of the transcript obtained at a preliminary hearing wherein the petitioner did not have the opportunity to cross-examine the witness, constituted a denial of the petitioner’s constitutional right of confrontation.
- Case Brief: 1965
- Petitioner: Pointer
- Respondent: Texas
- Decided by: Warren Court
Citation: 380 US 400 (1965)
Argued: Mar 15, 1965
Decided: Apr 5, 1965