The first trial for a January 6, 2021 U.S. Capitol attack defendant won't have any members of the public, media or even the wife of the defendant in the courtroom to witness much of the proceedings, a federal judge decided, CNN reports. U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich in Washington, D.C, will not allow any members of the public to witness the evidence presentation in person at the historic trial that's expected to last more than a week. A few are being allowed to watch jury selection, which began Monday, and opening statements. Guy Reffitt of Texas is accused of bringing a gun to the insurrection, battling with police, and afterward threatening his children to keep quiet.
The situation highlights an ongoing struggle in federal courtrooms, which never allow recordings of proceedings to be broadcast widely, between protecting the integrity of jury trials and attempting to prevent the spread of COVID-19. In the Reffitt case, the public and media are instead watching audio and video of the courtroom on closed-circuit TVs elsewhere in the courthouse, an alternative that 20 major media outlets said in a request to Friedrich is appreciated but unacceptable under the Constitution's provisions for transparency at criminal proceedings. Friedrich has allowed Reffitt's wife, Nicole, and a few journalists to watch jury selection in person. A media representative will be able to witness opening statements from the courtroom, and potentially watch closing arguments there as well. When witnesses are being called and evidence is being presented, the media and Reffitt's wife will lose their access to the courtroom, the judge said.