During a small town trial, in upstate New York, during 6 sidebars the justice, ADA and my attorney went into justice’s office for the sidebars. The jury stayed inside in court room area and I was requested to leave my own trial and go outside in cold windy weather and wait! Needless to say when I was called back in my hair was a mess…red cold face…which probably prejudiced my appearance to jurors. Was this a violation of my rights?
Generally, defendants are allowed to maintain an appearance of innocence during a criminal trial. Courts must attempt to prevent a jury from seeing a defendant in a prejudicial light to protect the defendant from bias. For example, courts generally make great efforts to prevent a jury from seeing a defendant handcuffed or in manacles. Although you may have looked unkempt after the recess, it’s unclear as to whether you would have looked “guilty” based on your red face and messy hair. However, if you were convicted at the end of your trial, you can file a petition for post-conviction relief under your state’s rules. You can raise this issue in that petition, and the court can then determine whether this incident rose to the level of preventing you from maintaining an appearance of innocence. In fact, it would be wise to consult an attorney (possibly a different one from your trial attorney) because you may have other grounds for post-conviction relief. If you don’t raise many of these ground in your petition for post-conviction relief, you may waive your right to argue them at a later date.