E. CLOSING THE COURTROOM FOR SENSITIVE QUESTIONS
From MN Bench Book - Trial Procedures & Practices for Judges
The trial judge may close the courtroom to allow a potential juror to answer sensitive questions in private. The defendant and his or her attorney must be present. See Minn. Crim. R. Proc. 26.02, Subd. 4 (4) A less drastic method of providing the prospective juror privacy to answer sensitive questions is to excuse the other membes of the juror panel, selected members of thejury and potential members of the jury, from the courtroom and allow the juror who is concerned about answering a question in privte to do so in the courtroom.
(4) Exclusion of the Public From Voir Dire. In those rare cases where it is necessary, the following rules govern orders excluding the public from any part of voir dire or restricting access to the orders or to transcripts of the closed proceeding.
(a) Advisory. When it appears prospective jurors may be asked sensitive or embarrassing questions during voir dire, the court may on its own initiative or on request of either party, advise the prospective jurors that they may request an opportunity to address the court in camera, with counsel and defendant present, concerning their desire to exclude the public from voir dire when the sensitive or embarrassing questions are asked.
(b) In Camera Hearing. If a prospective juror requests an opportunity to address the court in camera during sensitive or embarrassing questioning, the request must be granted. The hearing must be on the record with counsel and the defendant present.
(c) Standards. In considering the request to exclude the public during voir dire, the court must balance the juror's privacy interests, the defendant's right to a fair and public trial, and the public's interest in access to the courts. The court may order voir dire closed only if it finds a substantial likelihood that conducting voir dire in open court would interfere with an overriding interest, including the defendant's right to a fair trial and the juror's legitimate privacy interests in not disclosing deeply personal matters to the public. The court must consider alternatives to closure. Any closure must be no broader than necessary to protect the overriding interest.
(d) Refusal to Close Voir Dire. If the court determines no overriding interest exists to justify excluding the public from voir dire, the voir dire must continue in open court on the record.
(e) Closure of Voir Dire. If the court determines that an overriding interest justifies closure of any part of voir dire, that part of voir dire must be conducted in camera on the record with counsel and the defendant present.
(f) Findings of Fact. Any order excluding the public from a part of voir dire must be issued in writing or on the record. The court must set forth the reasons for the order, including findings as to why the defendant's right to a fair trial and the jurors' interests in privacy would be threatened by an open voir dire. The order must address any possible alternatives to closure and explain why the alternatives are inadequate.
(g) Record. A complete record of the in camera proceedings must be made. On request, the record must be transcribed within a reasonable time and filed with the court administrator. The transcript must be publicly available, but only if disclosure can be accomplished while safeguarding the overriding interests involved. The court may order the transcript or any part of it sealed, the name of a juror withheld, or parts of the transcript excised if the court finds these actions necessary to protect the overriding interest that justified closure.