State v. Linkous
In State v. Linkous, 177 W.Va. 621, 355 S.E.2d 410 (1987), Linkous sought to overturn a conviction of first degree murder without mercy primarily because he was initially handcuffed when he was brought into the courtroom for trial.
The Court contrasted the amount of time Brewster spent in restraints in front of the jury with the amount of time Linkous was restrained in court.
The Court then reasoned that an obvious security need, to reduce chances of escape and protect the public safety, exists to have some physical restraints on prisoners when they are moved from jail to the courthouse.
The Court cautioned, "The better practice is to remove restraints before a prisoner is brought before the jury," id., 177 W.Va. at 624, 355 S.E.2d at 413, but held in Syllabus Point 2 that "ordinarily, it is not reversible error nor grounds for a mistrial to proceed to try a criminal defendant with a jury panel that may have seen him in handcuffs for a brief period of time prior to trial."
In State v. Linkous, prospective jurors were in the courtroom just before the beginning of the defendant's murder trial.
The defendant arrived in the courtroom handcuffed to another prisoner, and the handcuffs were taken off.
Consequently, the defendant's attorney moved for a new jury panel, asserting that the existing panel would be prejudiced by having seen the defendant in handcuffs.
The trial court in Linkous, however, denied the motion. Upon appeal, the Court affirmed, noting as follows:
"This case involves only an initial appearance in handcuffs which were removed shortly after he was brought into the courtroom. Most courts that have dealt with this question conclude that ordinarily it is not reversible error nor grounds for a mistrial to proceed to try a criminal defendant with a jury panel that may have seen him in handcuffs for a brief period of time prior to trial." (177 W.Va. at 624, 355 S.E.2d at 413.)