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Monday, July 12, 2010

Ind. Courts - More on "Identities of Blagojevich jurors could be made public"

Updating this ILB entry from July 4th, referencing a July 2nd 7th Circuit opinion released in typescript, a new typescript version has just been posted by the Court, along with a lengthy correction (So if I'm following this, we have a 7/2/10 typescript opinion, a 7/12/10 typescript order amending the 7/2/ version, and a now corrected 7/12 typescript version of the 7/2 typescript opinion.)

The WSJ has a lengthy story today by Ashby Jones and Nathan Koppel headed "Anonymous Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury: Concerned About Tampering, Threats, Judges Consider Withholding Identities." Some quotes:

A contentious legal issue has emerged during the corruption trial of former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich that has nothing to do with his guilt or innocence.

It is whether names and addresses of the jurors should be withheld from the public during the trial, a question that is popping up frequently in courthouses across the country. * * *

It is difficult to quantify how often judges have shielded jurors' names from the public. But legal experts say the pervasiveness of the Internet and bloggers, an increasingly hungry press and the rise of witness and juror intimidation are leading more judges to grant anonymity to jurors during trial, and in some cases, after.

Free speech advocates and members of the media say the trend runs counter to the way trials have been held and in some circumstances, the U.S. Constitution. "There's a long tradition in our country of trials being open... and the press has a strong First Amendment right to gather news," said Steven Zansberg, a media lawyer in Denver who has represented media organizations in numerous high-profile criminal cases. Judges should withhold juror names during trials "only in extremely limited situations," he said.

In the Blagojevich corruption case, Chicago federal judge James Zagel ruled in May that juror names would stay out of the public out of concern that bloggers and others would try to contact jurors during the trial, which started last month. One concern appears to be that media questions could prompt the jurors to do their own outside research on the case, which is prohibited. Earlier this month, an appellate court acknowledged the risk that media questions could prompt the jurors to do their own research on the case, but sit still ordered the judge to reconsider his ruling after several media outlets complained. Judge Zagel is to hold a status hearing on the matter Monday.

ILB: "An appellate court" would, of course, be the 7th Circuit. The judges on the opinion are Easterbrook, Wood, and Tinder. (There is a lot to think about here.)

Ashby Jones also writes the WSJ Law Blog and picks up on his story in the blog today.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on July 12, 2010 12:17 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions