Federal appeals court judges repeatedly questioned the need to bar journalists from witnessing jury selection in the Martha Stewart trial, reports Newsday. The case may become moot because the jury has been selected, but a ruling could serve as a precedent.
The judges skeptically grilled Assistant U.S. Attorney Deborah Landis, who argued the case had attracted such massive media coverage that prospective jurors would be less than forthright in expressing their opinions were reporters allowed in the room.
Landis admitted the media hadn’t broken any rules; a prospective juror leaked a jury questionnaire to a Web site. Landis said there was no threat of physical harm similar to that found in cases involving terrorists and organized crime figures where the media sometimes has been barred from jury selection.
Judge Loretta Preska: “How is this different from other high-publicity cases?” Landis said: “The [media] focus is on the jurors.” Preska replied: “I don’t see it. I don’t see the evidence.” Judge Barrington Parker said the potential intimidation caused by a journalist was “teeny tiny” compared with that of Stewart herself.