UPDATE — NEW YORK
New York’s highest court in Albany unanimously held in early July that trial judges who close courtrooms to protect the safety and identity of an undercover police officer testifying in a criminal proceeding have no duty to explicitly consider less restrictive alternatives on their own initiative.
Saying that “any other rule would place an impractical — if not impossible — burden on trial courts,” the court held that closure decisions should be upheld as long as the record sufficiently establishes that open-court testimony by undercover officers would jeopardize their safety and effectiveness.
The court also said that the defense has “the responsibility of informing the court of alternative measures that would eliminate the dangers shown.”
In so ruling, the New York Court of Appeals rejected a February 1997 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York City (2nd Cir.) holding that a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trial imposes an affirmative duty on trial judges to raise alternatives on their own initiative and place their consideration of them on the record. (People v. Ramos; People v. Ayala)