USA Today Worries About Anonymous Juries Following Chauvin Verdict

Media outlets tried to give the public as much information as possible about the people who would decide former police officer Derek Chauvin’s fate – an act that will likely be cited by the defense team when trying to appeal the verdict.

Giving so much information about the jury could have led people with a moderate amount of internet sleuthing skills to discover the identities of some of the jurors. Had Chauvin not been found guilty of murdering Minneapolis man George Floyd, that information likely would have been used to punish those jurors for reaching the “wrong” verdict.

Sure, this is just a hypothetical, but given the way the mob reacted – and had been acting for the past year – it’s a likely scenario.

Enter USA Today, which published an article on Monday claiming anonymous juries are “part of a growing trend that has some legal experts worried.” The article frontloads the voices of those who don’t want juries to be anonymous, like Gregg Leslie, executive director of the First Amendment Clinic at Arizona State University’s law school.

“It’s been a slow and constant march toward this, and if in the end no one knows who’s on the jury, people can lose faith in the system and see it as a faceless machine,” Leslie told the outlet “Protecting privacy on a blanket basis will undermine the idea of an open and accountable society.”

To be sure, “accountable” is being applied to the jury, a clear indication that members of a jury should be identified so that they can be hounded afterward should the mob not get its way, though I’m sure that’s not what Leslie meant.

It is, however, an unfortunate consequence of today’s society, which is far too invested in trial-by-media, with a verdict decided before any actual trial is started.

Judge Peter Cahill decided it was best to keep the names of Chauvin’s jury away from the public, given the necessary steps taken to turn the courthouse where the trial took place into a “fortress” to protect it and those inside from the angry mob outside – a mob fully expected to violently riot should Chauvin be found not guilty.

Because there is not a portion of the United States guaranteed to burn down cities and loot businesses should they not get their way or be upset by something, full context not needed. It’s not a racial thing – many of those involved in the riots were white – but one of people ready and willing to commit crimes based on media misinformation in the early moments of a news story.

As New York defense attorney Scott Greenfield told The Daily Wire, anonymous juries don’t “deny transparency to the parties, but to the public, for whom the identity of jurors should be absolutely irrelevant.”

“The only possible cry for transparency is to condemn or harm them afterward for not reaching the verdict the public desires. This is explicitly not how juries should work, crossing the line into illegal jury tampering out of fear of harm at the hands of the outraged mob,” Greenfield added.

I wrote about this issue last week, focusing on how the media tried to give as much information as possible about the jurors without revealing their names and addresses. Outlets reported the towns in which the jurors lived, what industries they worked in, and in one case, the type of place one juror liked to hang out. It was enough information for someone with bad motives to discover their identities, and certainly enough information to pressure the jury ahead of their verdict. Maybe the information changed their decisions, as one alternate juror admitted they were “concerned about people coming to my house if they were not happy with the verdict.” How many others felt the same way?

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