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Illinois v. Allen

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendant, Allen, appealed from a conviction he received after he was barred from his own trial for disrupting the judicial process.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. While there is a Sixth Amendment right to be present at one’s trial, that right is not absolute.

    Facts. Allen was charged with armed robbery. Before his trial, he obtained permission to conduct his own defense, as long as he allowed court-appointed counsel to sit in. During voir dire, allen started to argue with the judge, and continued to be insubordinate throughout the opening of the trial. After that, the judge ordered Allen removed from the court room and only allowed him in for identification and for portions of his defense.

    Issue. Whether the Sixth Amendment gives a defendant an absolute right to attend his own trial.

    Held. When a defendant refuses to conduct himself in an orderly manner, he can lose his Sixth Amendment right to be present at his own trial.

    Concurrence. Justice Brennan concurred, only adding that when a defendant is excluded from trial it should be incumbent upon the court to insure that the defendant has full communication with his attorney.

    Discussion. The important thing to remember about this case is that the Sixth Amendment does not afford an absolute right to be present at one’s own trial.


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