The Anonymity of Juries

1900 Words8 Pages
The Anonymity of Juries The American criminal justice system has traditionally made the identities and addresses of jurors known to the judge, the prosecution, and the defense. That tradition began to erode with the unprecedented sua sponte trial court decision to use an anonymous jury in the case of United States v. Barnes, a highly publicized criminal trial of notorious organized crime figures in New York City. Since "Barnes," Federal prosecutors in New York have requested and been granted anonymous juries in a number of similar cases, a development which has generated criticism. This paper first addresses the issue of whether juror anonymity violates a defendant's sixth amendment right to a jury trial by adversely affecting the defendant's ability to exercise effectively peremptory challenges during voir dire. It also discusses the effect an anonymous jury may have on the presumption that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty. Also considered are attempts by trial judges, through particular jury instructions, to minimize or eliminate prejudice to defendants resulting from the use of an anonymous jury. And finally the paper examines the need for anonymous juries and concludes that in certain cases jurors may either fear retaliation or actually be exposed to intimidation unless the court employs measures to conceal their identities. Introduction Juror anonymity is an innovation that was unknown to the common law and to American jurisprudence in its first two centuries. Anonymity was first employed in federal prosecutions of organized crime in New York in the 1980's. Although anonymous juries are unusual since they are typically on... ... middle of paper ... ... need for anonymity is not limited to traditional organized crime cases, and the factors considered in empaneling anonymous juries existed to a lesser degree in cases preceding Barnes, the procedure is an appropriate safety measures in cases that "stretch the traditional dimensions of criminal law." 31 Conclusion An impartial jury is only a criminal defendant's constitutional right but a hallmark of any civilized judicial system. In extraordinary cases, juror anonymity is necessary to ensure this goal. Rather than alerting a juror to a defendant's violent persona, anonymity merely allays existing fears and prevents outside forces from prejudicing either side. Preventing a defendant from using his reputation or resources to discourage conviction preserves, rather than subverts, the integrity of the judicial process.
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