CRIMINAL LAW – Jury selection: Charles Allen v. Commonwealth of Kentucky (SC 6/25/2009)

 Charles Allen v. Commonwealth of Kentucky
2008-SC-000009-MR June 25, 2009
Opinion by Chief Justice Minton. All sitting; all concur.

Allen appealed his conviction for wanton murder, claiming he was denied a fair trial after member of the deceased’s family appeared in the courtroom during jury selection wearing t-shirts bearing a photograph of the victim and the words “in loving memory.” The trial court denied Allen’s motion to discharge the entire venire and allowed defense counsel to question potential jurors about what effect, if any, the t-shirts would have upon them.

The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction, holding that while the wearing of the t-shirts in the courtroom was improper, Allen did not suffer any demonstrable prejudice from the display. The Court also rejected Allen’s argument that the shirts created a situation of overwhelming inherent prejudice. The Court encouraged all trial courts to prevent trial attendees from conveying any message by clothing or other paraphernalia that could prejudice the rights of the Commonwealth or a defendant.

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