NY courts rule spectators can’t display portraits of the dead during murder trials

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York’s highest court says courtroom spectators should be prohibited from displaying portraits of the dead during murder trials.

But the Court of Appeals also says such displays aren’t automatic grounds for mistrial, noting depictions can range from small buttons to life-size portraits.

The court said Tuesday in Joel Nelson’s case he wasn’t deprived of a fair trial when Leo Walton’s family sat quietly in the gallery’s second row wearing T-shirts bearing his image and the phrase “Remembering Leo Walton.” Nelson had appealed his conviction.

Judge Eugene Fahey cited “overwhelming” trial evidence Nelson shot Walton and Mark Maldonado in Brooklyn in 2008.

The judge notes photographs of victims when alive generally aren’t allowed in evidence because they may “arouse the jury’s emotions.” He says spectators don’t have a First Amendment right to such displays.

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