Commonwealth v. RobinsonAnnotate this Case
The Supreme Judicial Court held that, by failing to raise a timely objection to an improper courtroom closure at trial, a defendant forfeits or procedurally waives his or her entitlement to the standard of review designated for meritorious and preserved claims of structural error, even if counsel and Defendant were subjectively unaware that the courtroom had been closed at trial.
The motion judge granted Defendant’s motion for a new trial, concluding that because Defendant and his counsel were unaware that the courtroom had been closing during empanelment, counsel’s failure to contemporaneously object to the close did not constitute a procedural waiver of his claim that he was denied his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. The Supreme Judicial Court reversed, holding (1) Defendant’s claim was procedurally waived despite the fact that he and his counsel were factually unaware of the courtroom closure when it occurred at trial; and (2) where a procedurally-waived Sixth Amendment public trial claim is raised in a motion for a new trial, a reviewing court analyzes the purported error to determine whether the error created a substantial risk of a miscarriage of justice. The court remanded the case for review of Defendant’s claim under the appropriate standard.