Sunday, July 26, 2009

"Identity Protection": should all juries be anonymous?


The Washington Times Sunday Read on July 26, on p 4, has an interesting proposal about “identity”, reported by Kristi Jourdan: “Identity Protection: Maryland, Virginia mull proposals for juries to be anonymous in all trials.” Here is the link.

The issue comes about because of fears of jury tampering and of threats against jurors in certain kinds of cases, such as those involving gangs, drug cartels or the “Mob.” It’s the stuff of John Grisham novels (like “Runaway Jury”, which became an important Fox film). But the constitutional theory is that selective anonymity undermines the presumption of innocence.

In the age of the Internet, it would sound like enforcing anonymity would be difficult.

Problems of identity exist with witness protection programs anyway, such as in the 2006 Lifetime film “Family in Hiding.”

I was called to jury duty four times while living in Dallas in the 1980s (the one day, one trial system). I was the foreman on a weapon's trial, resulting in conviction. My presence in a cvil malpractice case helped force a settlement because after the voir dire my background in work with HIV and the clinical issues came to the attention of the plaintiff's lawyers.

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