State v. Register, 206 N.C. App. 629 (Sept. 7, 2010)

In a child sexual abuse case, the trial court did not err by excluding spectators from the courtroom during the victim’s testimony. The court excluded all spectators except the victim’s mother and stepfather, investigators for each side, and a high school class. Because the defendant did not argue that he was denied a public trial, the requirements of Waller v. Georgia, 467 U.S. 39 (1984), do not apply. The defendant waived any constitutional issues by failing to raise them at trial. The trial court’s action was permissible under G.S. 15-166 (in sexual assault cases the trial judge may, during the victim’s testimony, exclude from the courtroom everyone except the officers of the court, the defendant, and those engaged in the trial of the case). Furthermore, the court noted, G.S. 15A-1034(a) gives the trial court authority to restrict access to the courtroom to ensure orderliness in the proceedings. The State was concerned about the child victim being confronted with “a hostile environment with [defendant's] family sitting behind him;” the trial court was concerned about the potential for outbursts or inappropriate reactions by supporters of both the defendant and the victim. Although it was unusual to allow the high school class to stay, this decision was not unreasonable given that the issue was reactions by family members.