North Dakota v. MartinezAnnotate this Case
The North Dakota Supreme Court consolidated two criminal cases because both involved whether a defendant may waive his Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. Former school teacher Everest Moore appealed three criminal judgments after a jury found him guilty of eight counts of gross sexual imposition with respect eight of his students. Moore argued the district court closed two pretrial hearings and parts of his trial without the pre-closure analysis required by Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39, 48 (1984), thus violating his public trial right guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment. Juan Martinez appealed after a jury found him guilty of continuous sexual abuse of a child. The victim was thirteen or fourteen at the time; there had been no public disclosures of her identity, the allegations were very personal, involving multiple penetrative sexual acts. During a hearing on the State’s motion, Martinez’s attorney stated that he did not oppose the motion to close the courtroom for the victim’s testimony. A representative from the Williston Herald newspaper expressed opposition to the motion. The court stated the public, including the media, had an interest in the motion and it would wait to decide the motion to give the media an opportunity to file an objection. Martinez argued the district court erred by ultimately closing the courtroom to the public during the testimony of the minor victim and the victim’s counselor. With respect to Moore, the Supreme Court concluded the exclusion of the public without a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver or Waller findings articulated on the record before the closures negatively affected the fairness, integrity, and public reputation of the criminal justice system. With respect to Martinez, the Court found the district court's findings in support of a second closure were clearly erroneous: "the court simply accepted the asserted interest without articulating how it overrides the defendant’s and public’s right to open proceedings. Both judgments were reversed and the matters remanded for new trials.