CLOSURE OF COURTROOM BASED UPON WITNESS’S FEAR WAS PROPER (FIRST DEPT).
The First Department noted that the closure of the courtroom during a prosecution witness’s testimony was proper in this gang-related murder case:
The record established an overriding interest in partially, and later completely, closing the courtroom during the testimony of an identifying eyewitness (see Waller v Georgia, 467 US 39, 48 ), and the other requirements of Waller were likewise satisfied as to both closures. The witness’s “extreme fear of testifying in open court was sufficient to establish an overriding interest” … , because the witness’s inability to testify without the closures at issue “could have severely undermined the truth seeking function of the court” … in this gang-related murder case. …
… [T]he court conducted a hearing at which the witness testified that he previously had been threatened for cooperating with the prosecution in another trial, that he had heard threats made against potential prosecution witnesses in the present case, and that he and his family lived in the same neighborhood where the shooting occurred. The court was entitled to credit the witness’s testimony that he felt threatened by defendant’s cousin and could not testify in his presence … . Although the cousin did not make any direct threats to the witness, he appeared to be closely associated with a person who did so. People v Sharp, 2018 NY Slip Op 00623, First Dept 2-1-18
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