United States v. Nunez – Case Brief Summary (Federal Court)

In United States v. Nunez, 877 F.2d 1475, 1478 (10th Cir. 1989), the Tenth Circuit affirmed the conviction of a defendant who was excluded from the courtroom on the fourth day of a twelve day trial. The Nunez Court stated:

In the instant case Nunez was given a warning on the first day of trial. On the second day of the trial, when Nunez interrupted the trial with loud talk and gesturing, he was removed from the courtroom. On the third day of the trial, Nunez was returned to the courtroom, and the district judge advised him that he would be permitted to remain, but that if there was any further "outburst," he would be excluded from the courtroom for the rest of the trial. Nunez declined the offer and asked to be excused and was. At noon on the third day of the trial, the district judge instructed the marshal to inquire whether Nunez wanted to return to the courtroom, and Nunez refused to talk. On the fourth day of the trial, Nunez was allowed to return to the courtroom, but when he interrupted the proceedings again by injecting himself into the proceedings, he was banished for good. And at that time Nunez himself indicated that he did not want to be any part of a "burlesque" or "charade," and he did not thereafter indicate any desire to return or testify. The district judge, in our reading of the record, was slow to anger and we find no error in his handling of this matter. Nunez's constitutional rights were adequately protected. In the final analysis, it boiled down to whether Nunez, or the district judge was going to conduct the trial. (Nunez, 877 F.2d at 1478.)

While pointing out that Allen did not require a defendant to be "brought back at least once a day to ascertain whether he would promise to behave properly. . .," the Nunez Court emphasized that the trial judge protected the defendant's constitutional rights by affording him multiple opportunities to return to the courtroom. (Id. at 1475.)