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Leg Brace during Criminal Trial is Harmless Error

A criminal trial judge's decision to require the defendant to wear a leg
brace during the trial, based only on unsworn hearsay testimony regarding a
potential witness's plan to "do 'stuff,'" without evidence the defendant
was going to participate in the "stuff" or do anything disruptive or try to
escape as a result, and without considering less restrictive alternatives,
violated the Fourteenth Amendment. However, the error was harmless, since
none of the jurors remembered seeing the leg brace and the defendant didn't
show it impaired his ability to assist in his defense. See: Packer v. Hill,
291 F.3d 569 (9th Cir. 2002).

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Related legal case

Packer v. Hill

WILLIAM PACKER, Petitioner-Appellant, v. DON HILL, Warden; ATTORNEY GENERAL of the State of California, Respondents-Appellees.

No. 00-57051


291 F.3d 569; 2002 U.S. App. ; 2002 Daily Journal DAR 4919

May 6, 2002, Filed

PRIOR HISTORY: Packer v. Hill, 277 F.3d 1092, 2002 U.S. App. (9th Cir. Cal. 2002).

DISPOSITION: Petitioner's request for clarification of the remand order was granted. The opinion filed January 15, 2002 was amended.

JUDGES: [**1] Before: Harry Pregerson, Stephen Reinhardt, and Barry G. Silverman, Circuit Judges.



Petitioner-Appellant William Packer's request for clarification of the remand order is granted. The opinion filed January 15, 2002 is amended as follows:

1. On the second line from the bottom of slip opinion 644, "returned verdicts" should be replaced with "returned sealed verdict forms to the court."

2. The third and fourth sentences of the first full paragraph of slip opinion page 663 should be deleted and replaced with the following (including footnote 16):

Because the jury was considering both the murder and attempted murder counts when this coercion occurred, we conclude that the judge's coercion manifestly had a "substantial and injurious effect" on the jury's verdicts on these counts. Brecht, 507 U.S. 619, 637, 123 L. Ed. 2d 353, 113 S. Ct. 1710. n16 We therefore reverse the district court's denial of the writ of habeas corpus and remand with instructions to grant the writ as to Packer's murder and attempted murder convictions.

n16 We disagree with the prosecution's contention that habeas relief should only extend to the murder charge because the jury reached a verdict on the attempted murder charge before the juror coercion began. To the contrary, Foreman Wkye told Judge Phelps and counsel that the jury was continuing to deliberate about the attempted murder charge (count 2) on the afternoon of Friday, May 15. See ER 42, 110-11. We also disagree with Packer's contention that habeas relief should extend to all of the charges he was convicted of committing because none of the verdicts was final when the juror coercion occurred. Sealed verdict forms on all but the murder and attempted murder charges were submitted to the court before the juror coercion occurred, and there is no indication in the record that any of the jurors wavered in their votes on these charges.


3. On slip opinion page 665, the remainder of the majority opinion below the heading "Conclusion" should be deleted and replaced with the following:

While we agree with the district court's rejection of Packer's leg brace claim, we reverse its decision to deny the writ of habeas corpus with respect to the murder and attempted murder convictions, because we uphold Packer's juror coercion claim as to those counts. As to the remaining counts on which Packer was convicted, we affirm the denial of the writ. Accordingly, we remand to the district court for the granting of an appropriate writ of habeas corpus on the murder and attempted murder counts.