In the United States, in general criminal trial courtrooms, I have always seen the defense positioned furthest from the jury and the witness stand. However, I gather that not only is there no law or rule prescribing this arrangement, but also there are some courts where it is not the case.
I imagine that a counselor for a defendant may have a number of reasons why he would prefer to seat himself and his client closest to the jury, or closest to the witness stand. For example, the counselor may want to get a more acute read on the reactions of jurors or emotions of witnesses. Or he may consider his client to have an attractive or sympathetic demeanor. (Conversely, he may want to keep an unsympathetic client as far from the jury's eyes as possible.)
In criminal trials, does the defense ever (or always) have the option of choosing its position in the courtroom? If not, is there jurisprudence that explains why this isn't considered an unnecessary handicap to the defense?