California Landmark Cases on Defendants Wearing Restraints During Trial

"When a defendant is charged with any crime, and particularly if he is accused of a violent crime, his appearance before the jury in shackles is likely to lead the jurors to infer that he is a violent person disposed to commit crimes of the type alleged." (People v.. Duran (1976) 16 Cal.3d 282, 290.) Further, the use of shackles may deter a defendant from taking the stand to testify on his own behalf and may interfere with the clear exercise of his mental faculties. (Id. at pp. 288, 290; People v. Hill (1998) 17 Cal.4th 800, 846.) Accordingly, to avoid these potential impediments to a fair trial, a defendant may not be required to wear physical restraints (even if not visible to the jury) during trial, unless there is a manifest need for such restraints. (People v. Mar (2002) 28 Cal.4th 1201, 1216, 1219.) "Such a showing, which must appear as a matter of record , may be satisfied by evidence, for example, that the defendant plans to engage in violent or disruptive behavior in court, or that he plans to escape from the courtroom . A shackling decision must be based on facts, not mere rumor or innuendo." (People v. Anderson (2001) 25 Cal.4th 543, 595.) Manifest need may arise from a showing that the defendant might engage in violent, disruptive, or other nonconforming conduct. (People v. Anderson, supra, 25 Cal.4th at p. 595; People v. Lewis and Oliver (2006) 39 Cal.4th 970, 1031-1032.) The fact that a defendant is charged with a violent crime does not, without more, justify the use of physical restraints. (People v. Mar, supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 1218.) Rather, the court must make the decision whether to use physical restraints on a case-by-case basis. (Ibid.) When physical restraints are used, they "'should be as unobtrusive as possible, although as effective as necessary under the circumstances.'" (Id. at p. 1217.) The imposition of restraints in the absence of a showing of a threat of violence or other nonconforming conduct constitutes an abuse of discretion. (Id. at p. 1221.) Error in the use of restraints, however, is harmless if there is no evidence the jury was aware that a defendant was shackled during trial, and no evidence the shackles impaired or prejudiced the defendant's right to testify or participate in his or her defense. (People v. Anderson, supra, 25 Cal.4th at p. 596; People v. Tuilaepa (1992) 4 Cal.4th 569, 583-584 Supreme Court has "consistently found any unjustified or unadmonished shackling harmless where there was no evidence it was seen by the jury".) Similarly, a jury's brief observation of physical restraints is generally viewed as nonprejudicial. (People v. Cleveland (2004) 32 Cal.4th 704, 740.) The key concerns are that the defendant not be placed in unjustified restraints visible to the jury for a protracted period during trial, that the defendant not be deterred from taking the stand on his own behalf because of restraints, and that the defendant's mental faculties or ability to communicate not be impaired by embarrassing or uncomfortable restraints. (See People v. Cunningham (2001) 25 Cal.4th 926, 988-989; People v. Anderson, supra, at p. 596.) After the defendant's guilt has been determined, shackling is generally considered nonprejudicial. For example, in People v. Medina (1990) 51 Cal.3d 870, 898, the Supreme Court "held that the trial court's failure to instruct the jury to disregard the defendant's shackles when he testified during the sanity phase of the trial was harmless. The court observed that 'the risk of substantial prejudice to a shackled defendant is diminished once his guilt has been determined.' " (People v. Slaughter (2002) 27 Cal.4th 1187, 1214.) In Slaughter, "the second penalty phase jury knew that defendant already had been found guilty of murdering two individuals during the commission of a robbery. Under any standard, it does not appear that the jury's penalty phase verdict would have been affected even if the jurors had glimpsed a portion of the device or, having heard a sound as defendant walked, concluded that he was wearing a restraint." (Ibid.)