The appellant contends the trial court violated his rights under the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, as well as his statutory rights, by excluding him from the courtroom during jury voir dire, and by not giving him the opportunity to reclaim his right to be present in the courtroom at any point during the guilt-innocence phase of his trial. A defendant's right to be present in the courtroom until jury selection is completed is mandatory and cannot be waived. Although there does not appear to be a bright-line rule in Texas requiring a trial court to follow a particular method to ensure that a defendant is given a reasonable opportunity to return to the courtroom, at a minimum, the trial court should inform the defendant of his right to return to the courtroom and should, either directly or indirectly by using defense counsel as an intermediary, take reasonable steps to assess whether the defendant is ready to reclaim his right to return to the courtroom. The error was harmless, for reasons including that defense counsel’s trial strategy of obtaining a conviction on the lesser offense of murder was achieved. The trial court’s judgment is affirmed as modified. Morrison v. State, El Paso Court of Appeals, No. 08-13-00319-CR, 11/04/2015.
STEVEN L. HUGHES, JUSTICE