United States v. Reyes

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Criminal Law
  • Date Filed: 09-04-2014
  • Case #: 12-50386
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Bybee for the Court; Circuit Judges Bea and Christen
  • Full Text Opinion

A defendant's constitutional rights are not violated when he is excluded from side bar conversations between the court and counsel discussing whether prospective jurors should be dismissed for cause, exercising peremptory challenges, and deciding whether to proceed in the absence of prospective jurors, because the conversations are conferences or hearings on a matter of law.

Joe Angel Reyes was convicted of attempted bank robbery. During voir dire, Reyes was present with his attorneys. After the first twelve jurors were questioned, the district court discussed peremptory challenges and excusal for cause at side bar with counsel, out of the hearing of Reyes. Reyes' attorney asked to allow Reyes to be present at future side bar discussions of jurors, which the court denied. During one of eighteen side bar conversations the court briefly questioned a prospective juror outside of the hearing of Reyes. On appeal, Reyes contends that the district court impermissibly excluded him from side bar exchanges and that his sentence was substantively unreasonable. The Ninth Circuit held that seventeen of the eighteen side bar exchanges involved only questions of law and that the defendant need not be present under the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure. However, the panel held that the side bar voir dire of one juror was improper, but found the error to be harmless because there was no reasonable possibility that Reyes was prejudiced. The panel also held that the sentence imposed was not unreasonable. AFFIRMED.

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