Reaffirming the tradition of making public the names of jurors, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court says the First Amendment requires access to juror identities in most cases, but not their addresses, reports the Philadelphia Inquirer. “Disclosing jurors’ names furthers the objective of a fair trial to the defendant and gives assurances of fairness to society as a whole,” wrote Chief Justice Ralph Cappy. The 5-0 decision came in the case of a podiatrist accused of suffocating his wife. The judge withheld the names of jurors, and Pittsburgh news organizations appealed.
What to do about juror identities is an issue of growing importance as more high-profile trials play out on cable and network television, with jurors interviewed as soon as the verdict is in. The Pennsylvania trial judge noted that the case had been “widely publicized and sensationalized” and clearly was motivated by concern for jurors’ privacy. Disclosing jurors’ names, Cappy said, “allows the public to participate in the judicial process and furthers the fairness and the appearance of fairness of the criminal trial, since the public can confirm the impartiality of the proceedings and the prospective jurors are more likely to tell the truth.” When disclosing names could raise concerns for jury safety, tampering, or harassment, he said, names may be withheld in some instances, or perhaps until a case was decided.