Anonymous Jury In Baltimore Police Case: A “Really Disturbing Trend”?


A Baltimore judge's granting anonymity to jurors who will decide whether a police officer bears responsibility in the death of Freddie Gray is part of a growing phenomenon: Those who dole out justice in sensitive cases sometimes do so without having to reveal their identities, the Washington Post reports. Citing extensive publicity and asserting that those deciding the guilt or innocence of officer William Porter could face “harassment,” Judge Barry Williams said jurors’ names should not be made public. Defense attorneys argued that might put to rest people's fears about serving in the emotionally charged case. “In the current climate, saying 'not guilty' … and then returning to your daily life will take great courage on the part of the citizenry,” Porter's defense attorneys wrote. “It is possible, indeed probable, that an acquittal of Officer Porter will lead to further civil unrest. But this officer deserves his trial without any 'sacrificial lamb' thinking on the part of jury members.”

Prosecutors agreed that jurors' names should not be made public but objected to a special instruction telling them their identities would forever be kept secret. Gregg Leslie of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press said the ruling illustrates “a really disturbing trend that we're seeing a lot of.” He said that when jurors' names are shielded from the public, it can be difficult or impossible to determine whether they might be affected by any improper biases or influences. “Anonymous juries are almost never truly justified as a permanent solution,” Leslie said. “If secrecy becomes the norm, corruption will necessarily follow.”

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