The Anonymity Of Juries Essay Research Paper

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The Anonymity Of Juries Essay, Research Paper Abstract 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 only empanelled in organized-crime cases, its use has spread more recently to widely publicized cases such as the federal prosecution of police officers accused of beating Rodney King; and the trial of those accused of the World Trade Center bombing. In these cases, attorneys selected a jury from a panel of prospective jurors whose names, addresses, ethnic backgrounds and religous affiliations remain unknown to either side. This unusual procedure, designed to protect jurors from outside influence and the fear of retaliation, has occasionally been used in New York federal courts since the trial of drug kingpin Leroy “Nicky” Barnes.1 Despite

apparent benefits, critics assail anonymous juries both as an infringment of the sixth amendment guarantee of an impartial jury 2 and as a serious and unnecessary erosion of the presumption of innocence.3 Since many attorneys believe trials are frequently won or lost during jury selection,4 any procedure diminishing the role of counsel invites close scrutiny and criticism. Opponents of anonymous juries argue that the procedure restricts meaningful voir dire and thereby undermines the defendant’s sixth amendment right to an impartial jury.5 Critics also claim that jurors interpret their anonymity as proof of the defendant’s criminal proclivity, thereby subverting the presumption of innocence.6 Nevertheless, this paper argues that anonymous juries neither undermine the sixth

amendment nor meaningfully dilute the presumption of innocence. Limited Voir Dire and the Peremptory Challenge Consistent with due process and the sixth amendment,7 the trial judge may refuse to ask prospective jurors any questions not reasonably calculated to expose biases or prejudices relevant to the case.8 Although addresses and group affilations may indicate significant potential for bias, attorneys do not have an unfettered right to this information in every case.9 Denying access to these facts may constrain an attorney’s ability to assemble an ideal jury, but it violates no constitutional right. Although the Barnes court may have been on firm constitutional ground in rejecting the defendants’ request for the ethnic and religous backgrounds and addresses of prospective