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The Champion

July 2017 , Page 49 

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Informal Opinion: Weaver v. Massachusetts: A Violation of the Public-Trial Right Does Not Necessarily Mean Reversal

By C. Justin Brown

Weaver v. Massachusetts: A Violation of the Public-Trial Right Does Not Necessarily Mean Reversal

Weaver v. Massachusetts
No. 16-240
U.S. Sup. Ct., June 22, 2017 

In denying the ineffective assistance-of-counsel claim in Weaver v. Massachusetts, the U.S. Supreme Court made it harder for defendants to gain relief from convictions that resulted from structurally flawed trials. Although the type of error considered in this case was of a fundamentally constitutional nature, the 7-2 majority, led by Justice Anthony Kennedy, was less concerned with remedying the error than with preserving finality.

It is not disputed that 16-year-old Kentel Weaver’s murder trial in Massachusetts state court was in violation of the Sixth Amendment right to a public trial. As jury selection was underway, and the judge was attempting to accommodate an unusually large venire panel, a court officer closed the proceedings to the public, including the defendant’s mother and her minister. Even though

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