How Do Face Masks Affect Criminal Trials?

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hartford criminal defense lawyerFor nearly two years, people throughout the United States have been taking precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19, protect against infections, and stay as safe as possible. During the pandemic, people have become used to certain protective measures, such as wearing face masks when indoors and maintaining social distancing. However, these precautions have had some unexpected effects, including in courts that have resumed in-person trials while taking steps to protect the safety of everyone in the courtroom. Some legal analysts have raised concerns about how face masks worn by people involved in trials will affect the rights of criminal defendants. 

Balancing Public Safety and the Right to a Fair Trial

During a criminal trial, the ability to see and read people’s facial expressions can be crucial. However, this has become more difficult due to the requirements that people involved in trials wear masks. In Connecticut, an executive order issued by Governor Ned Lamont requires everyone entering state Judicial Branch facilities to wear facial coverings over their mouth and nose. Depending on the procedures followed in different courts, witnesses may provide testimony without wearing masks, and attorneys may be able to go unmasked when questioning witnesses or making arguments before a jury. However, other people in the courtroom will usually wear masks during a trial.

When defendants are required to wear masks, this may affect jurors’ perceptions of them throughout a trial. Seeing how a person reacts to statements by witnesses, evidence that is presented, or arguments made by attorneys can provide a great deal of insight for jurors. However, this may not be possible when a defendant’s facial expressions cannot be fully seen. Instead, jurors may need to rely on body language or other cues as they attempt to gauge a defendant’s responses to the issues being addressed.

The requirement for jurors to wear masks may also affect a criminal trial. During the jury selection process, the inability to fully read jurors’ facial expressions may make it more difficult for attorneys to determine whether a person will be able to properly consider the issues raised during a case. During the trial itself, attorneys may also have trouble determining how jurors are reacting to the facts and arguments being presented.

Contact Our Hartford Criminal Law Attorney

While the safety of everyone involved in a criminal case is important, defendants also deserve to receive a fair and speedy trial. Since the use of face masks and other protective measures may play an increasingly significant role in criminal trials, defendants will need to be sure to work with a qualified attorney who can help protect their rights. At Woolf Law Firm, LLC, we work to ensure that our clients are fully prepared to address criminal charges, and we can provide strong and effective representation during a trial. Contact our Connecticut criminal defense lawyer at 860-290-8690 to arrange a free consultation and learn how we can help you build an effective defense strategy.

Sources:

https://www.abajournal.com/web/article/do-face-coverings-help-or-hinder-defendants

https://jud.ct.gov/COVID19.htm


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