Hiding the Identity of Potential Jurors

By Kirtley, Jane | American Journalism Review, June 1997 | Go to article overview

Hiding the Identity of Potential Jurors


Kirtley, Jane, American Journalism Review


When do privacy concerns override the right to know?

The bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995 resulted in the deaths of 168 people, with hundreds more seriously wounded in what the Washington Post called "the worst terrorist attack ever on American soil."

In April, jury selection began in the case of United States vs. McVeigh in federal district court in Denver. Presiding Judge Richard Matsch decided that the case would be tried by an "anonymous" jury.

He sealed all records that could reveal the identity of those summoned for jury selection. Most of the juror questioning, or voir dire, was held in open court. But when attorneys challenged potential jurors for "cause"--factors that might indicate the juror was prejudiced and could not rule fairly in the case--the matter was heard in closed sessions from which the press and public were barred. Presumably, this was intended to save prospective jurors from embarrassment.

In a most unusual move, Matsch also ordered that a partition be placed in the courtroom, obscuring the jurors from the view of spectators on the left side of the public seating area, although not from those on the right.

Guess where the press was required to sit? Not only were no cameras allowed in the courtroom other than the closed-circuit camera beaming the proceedings to the remote viewing center for victims in Oklahoma City, Matsch presumably wanted to make sure that members of the news media could not recognize and confront members of the jury pool outside of the courthouse.

As a consequence of these orders, the identities of the jurors will be known only to the court and to the parties in the case. In light of the use of anonymous juries in high-profile cases in recent years, such as the federal trial of the police officers accused of beating Rodney King and the O.J. Simpson criminal trial, Matsch's decision may seem like business as usual. But in fact, it represents the latest eruption in a growing epidemic of secrecy that is shrouding the selection and identity of the individuals who sit in judgment of their fellow citizens.

It was not always so. Under the English common law system imported to the American colonies, public jury selection was the norm. A classic example of the salutary effects of this practice was the seditious libel trial of John Peter Zenger, the immigrant printer and free press icon, in 1735.

The court clerk had tried to "pack" the jury with potential members who either were not eligible to serve, or who were expected to be sympathetic to the colonial governor who had been skewered in the newspaper. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hiding the Identity of Potential Jurors
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.