CBA Record July-August 2018
The Case for the Routine Use of Anonymous Juries in Criminal Trials , Vanderbilt Law Review, 49 Vand. L. Rev. 123 (1996). In the digital age, evidence suggests that not releasing jurors’ names protects their right to privacy. David Weinstein, Protect- ing a Juror’s Right to Privacy: Constitutional Constraints and Policy Options , 70 Temp. L. Rev. 1 (1997). Today it is all too easy for the media or public to look up per- sonal information about jurors once they know their names. Thaddeus Hoffmeister, Investigating Jurors in the Digital Age: One Click at A Time , 60 U. Kan. L. Rev. 611, 612 (2012). Contacting jurors has become even easier in the ever-expanding world of the internet and social media. Bridget M. Hathaway, Socially Networked Jurors Raise Concern: Empanelling Anonymous Juries to Protect the Defendant’s Right to A Fair Trial , 57Wayne L. Rev. 557, 573 (2011). Public access to jurors’ names creates a substantial risk that jurors could be contacted, argu- ably outweighing the benefits of public access to jurors’ identities. Assigning jurors numbers that will carry through from the moment they step foot in the courtroom through the end of the trial may be the solution to the problems faced by jurors, defendants, and the media. Wegner . Implementing a number system ensures that the concerns and rights of all relevant parties can still be met without any major infringements. The results of the juror questionnaire implemented by Judge Charles P. Burns supports referring to jurors by numbers rather than names. Of the1,180 jurors responding, 4.5% expressed concern about their identity and personal information such as place of employment being released to the public. Three jurors explicitly indi- cated they feared retaliation. The open-ended survey questions have been revised slightly over the past four years. Since 2015, jurors were asked five questions, one of which was as follows: “What were your feelings re: the jury selection process including, though not limited to, referring to the prospective and chosen jurors by numbers and not by name?” Of the 535 jurors who were asked that specific question, 79% expressed a favorable response to being referred to
by number instead of by name. Their responses included statements such as “I appreciated that level of anonymity,” “It is a great idea for confidentiality” or “Using the number system was great!” Further, 5% of jurors explicitly indi- cated that the number system made them feel safer and more secure. “I appreciated the numbers–felt safer as a juror and more free in determining a verdict,” said one juror. Additionally, 3.1% of jurors felt that being referred to by a number protected their privacy. In fact, only three people requested that jurors continue to be called by name and not by number. Peremptory Challenges Even with the no-name juror system, the defendant will still be able to use peremp- tory challenges. The media will still have access to all court proceedings except for juror identity. The purpose of the justice system is served when jurors, representing the com- munity’s interests, appear in open court, fulfill their service requirement without unnecessary privacy or safety concerns, ensuring the defendant receives a fair trial. Fersko, 40 Seton Hall L. Rev. at 809–10. Empaneling a fair and impartial jury can best be achieved by a jury selection process that includes appropriate consideration of juror privacy interests as well as the rights of the public and the defendant. Stephen A. Gerst, Balancing the Rights of the Public with the Jurors’ Right to Privacy During the Jury Selection Process , 46 No. 6 Crim. Law Bulletin ART 5 (Winter 2010). The successful use of anonymous juries in federal courts, in small counties in sister states, in Chicago collar counties in Illinois, and in the massive media case of People v. Balfour, coupled with evidence of privacy concerns amongst jurors, has raised the question: is it time for Cook County, the country’s second largest court system, to commence the discussion to permanently adopt this practice? That answer is: Yes. Judge Charles P. Burns is in the Criminal Division of Cook County's Circuit Court. Ana Montelongo is an Assistant Public Defender
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