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Habeas Granted for Defendant Shackled at Trial

A criminal court determined that it would order a criminal defendant shackled during his trial, without establishing a compelling need for the shackling. At 636: "Because visible shackling during trial is so likely to cause a defendant prejudice, it is permitted only when justified by an essential state interest specific to each trial." Therefore due process requires a hearing assessing security risks and less restrictive alternative. At 636:

A jury's brief or inadvertent glimpse of a defendant in physical restraints outside of the courtroom has not warranted habeas relief. ... Similarly, when the defendant's shackling was not actually seen by the jury during the trial, we have held that the shackling was harmless error. ... But when the defendant's erroneous shackling has been visible to the jurors in the courtroom, we have found the shackling warranted habeas relief.

The error was not harmless because the jurors actually saw the shackles (and remembered them at a hearing six years later), they caused physical and emotional pain to the defendant and therefore a strong likelihood of prejudice, and the petitioner was charged with violent crimes and the shackles essentially branded him as having a violent nature. Writ ordered to be granted. See: Rhoden v. Rowland, 172 F.3d 633 (9th Cir. 1999).

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Related legal case

Rhoden v. Rowland