WASHINGTON, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court ruled 7-2 Tuesday that selecting a jury for a criminal trial must be open to the public.
SCOTUSblog.com reported it was the first time such a ruling has been handed down.
The unsigned opinion came in a Georgia drug case, Georgia vs. Presley. A state judge had denied public access to the voir dire process, the process of questioning potential jurors for selection.
The opinion cited the Sixth Amendment's guarantee of a public trial.
Justice Clarence Thomas dissented, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia.
"(E)ven assuming, arguendo, that the trial court had an overriding interest in closing voir dire, it was still incumbent upon it to consider all reasonable alternatives to closure," the majority opinion said. "It did not, and that is all this (Supreme) Court needs to decide. The Supreme Court of Georgia's judgment (upholding the closure) is reversed, and the case is remanded for further proceedings not inconsistent with this opinion."