Physical Restraints In the Courtroom

In People v. Duran (1976) 16 Cal. 3d 282, 127 Cal. Rptr. 618, 545 P.2d 1322 (hereafter Duran), our high court addressed the use of physical restraints in the courtroom, holding that because of the "possible prejudice in the minds of the jurors, the affront to human dignity, the disrespect for the entire judicial system which is incident to unjustifiable use of physical restraints, as well as the effect such restraints have upon a defendant's decision to take the stand,... a defendant cannot be subjected to physical restraints of any kind in the courtroom while in the jury's presence, unless there is a showing of a manifest need for such restraints." (Id. at pp. 290-291.) Duran's holding was not limited to visible restraints. Rather, the high court "simply noted that less drastic and less visible restraints" than shackles or manacles "should be employed when, in the exercise of his discretion, the judge concludes it is safe to do so." (Id. at p. 291, fn. 9.) The court even specified in Duran that when visible restraints are used the jury must be instructed sua sponte to disregard the restraints in reaching its verdict. When the restraints are concealed, such an instruction is not to be given absent request from the defendant. (Id. at pp. 291-292.)