State v. Allah Jamaal W

In State v. Allah Jamaal W. (W.Va. 2000) 209 W. Va. 1, 543 S.E.2d 282, the court adhered to its prior decision that a criminal defendant had no constitutional right to have a witness appear in civilian attire (id. at p. 285), and held the issue of whether a defense witness should be required to wear prison attire while testifying before a jury is generally a matter within the sound discretion of the trial judge, whose decision will not be reversed absent a showing of abuse. (Id. at p. 287.) The trial judge, the court said, should not permit an incarcerated defense witness to appear at trial in the distinctive attire of a prisoner, but if a timely motion to permit the witness to testify in civilian clothes is denied, the court must state the reasons for denial on the record. The court noted that despite what it called a "general prohibition" against forcing defense witnesses to testify in prison attire, "courts have not overturned convictions on the sole basis that a witness for the defendant was forced to wear prison attire while testifying." (Id. at p. 286.) In the case before it, the trial judge had denied a timely motion and failed to provide any relevant reason for the denial. The state conceded error, and the court ruled the denial was an abuse of discretion "as a result of" the record's silence. (Id. at p. 288.)