from an expert in the field:
The Hon. Donald E. Shelton is Chief Judge of the Michigan 22nd
Judicial Circuit (
APRIL DEBATE RESULTS:
Do the benefits of “fracking”
outweigh the risks?
YOU ARE AN HONEST citizen performing your civic duty as a juror. In
a murder case you are sequestered for many days. After the deliberations
and verdict, you are excused. Then your name is given to the media. Your
personal information is posted on the Internet and broadcast on television. Cameras confront you in your driveway and you are ridiculed on
national television. The case is real, and the defendant was Casey Anthony.
“Anonymous jurors” conjures up a vision of jurors being hidden from
everyone. No one has ever suggested that. The defendant clearly has a Sixth Amendment right to
see and know who the jurors are. The issue is that the media insist they have a constitutional
“free press” right to get the names of and pursue innocent jurors.
There is only a qualified right of media access in court. It should give way in high-profile cases
because jurors have a constitutional right to privacy that should not be sacrificed when their peace
and security are at stake. Not only is media abuse of jurors commonplace, but when the media get
juror names and addresses, everyone else immediately gets that information through the Internet,
A respect for juror privacy helps to provide a constitutionally representative and impartial jury.
But when potential jurors are told that their names and addresses will be released to the media,
After a high-profile rape/murder case, I told the jurors that the press wanted their names and
addresses. They composed the following statement:
“We worked hard to reach this verdict. It was the right thing to do. It was hard on everyone,
including all of the families involved. We shed a lot of tears. All of our lives have been disrupted
and we have been separated from our families for over two weeks. Please respect our privacy and
do not attempt to contact us. Thank you for your consideration.”
Jurors have neither sought public acclaim nor committed a crime. They have done nothing
that would justify a forfeiture of their rights to privacy and security. C
Percentage reflects votes
received by April 13, 2012
MARCH DEBATE RESULTS:
Should marijuana be legal?
YES: 94% NO: 6%
Percentage reflects votes received by
March 31, 2012. Results may reflect
Debate being picked up by blogs.
from an expert in the field:
Lucy A. Dalglish is Executive Director of the Reporters Committee for
Freedom of the Press (
www.rcfp.org), a nonprofit association providing
free legal assistance and educational services to journalists.
OF ALL THE RIGHTS guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution, perhaps none
is as important as the guarantee that accused criminals have a fair trial.
Key to a fair trial is the ability of the defendant and the public to know that
those chosen to render judgment are properly impaneled on the jury.
American courts are increasingly using secret proceedings and filing
secret pleadings. This trend includes greater use of anonymous juries,
meaning the press, the public and (sometimes) the lawyers have no idea who is serving on a jury.
Such a practice flies in the face of the American tradition of public justice, which promises an
accused person the right to “the lawful judgment of his peers.”
There’s no way to know whether jurors are peers when you don’t know who they are.
The first fully anonymous jury in the United States was in the 1977 trial of drug kingpin
Leroy Barnes in New York City. The court believed Barnes presented an unusually dangerous risk
to the jurors and took the extraordinary measure of hiding their identities.
But by the mid-1990s, some courts were routinely using anonymous juries, particularly in
high-profile trials. Ironically, this practice creates fair-trial issues of a different sort. When a judge
promises anonymity, jurors may get the not-so-subtle message that the defendant is dangerous,
potentially threatening the defendant’s right to “presumption of innocence.”
The most important reason to preserve access to juror identities is that courts, jurors or liti-
gants could more easily engage in improprieties if they are not subject to public scrutiny.
The trial of mobster John Gotti in 1992 is an example of how anonymous juries can threaten
the public interest. The judge presiding over Gotti’s trial impaneled an anonymous jury because it
was feared Gotti or his associates might threaten, intimidate or otherwise tamper with the composition of the jury. Unbeknownst to the court, the prosecutors or the press, one of the jurors
was a man with ties to organized crime. It was later learned the man contacted Gotti’s attorneys,
accepted a bribe and arranged for Gotti’s acquittal. If the jurors had not been anonymous, the
prosecutors and the press would have had the opportunity to investigate the jurors’ backgrounds
to prevent such corruption of the trial.
The routine impaneling of unidentified jurors prevents citizens from engaging in oversight of
their publicly funded courts and threatens the credibility of the justice system. C
Opinions expressed are those of the
individuals or organizations represented
and are presented to foster discussion.
Costco and The Costco Connection take
no position on any Debate topic.
MAY 2012 The Costco Connection