Monday, March 7, 2011

Anonymous Jury For Trial In Chicago Granted By State And Federal Courts

Could anonymous juries be the next greatest thing in the world of anonymity? Maybe. In Chicago, federal prosecutors are asking for an anonymous jury in the pending trial of an accused terrorist, for the security of the jurors. Also, remember the Blagojevich case? The judge presiding over the former Illinois Governor's trial has proclaimed that the identities of the jurors in the retrial will indeed remain anonymous until the following morning after the proceedings. Once again, the intent is to protect the jurors from harm or harassment. This precedent for anonymous juries opens the door to greater protections for all citizens.

It is well known that the media does not favor anonymous juries. They contend that this information should be in the public domain, and that jurors should be held more accountable when their identities are known. But really, what should they be held accountable for? The jury selection process and veil of secrecy surrounding juries during trials have always been a media focal point. Jurors participating in proceedings involving networks of sympathizers (such as terrorist and organized crime) should always be permitted to remain anonymous until the proceedings have been completed.

One argument against anonymous juries is that it gets in the way of the jury interviewing/selection process. If they answer selection questionnaires anonymously, some would argue it creates disparities and jurors can answer the questions dishonestly. But this argument goes both ways since jurors could respond more honestly (because their identities are protected).

Either way, this is good for citizens that have to participate in controversial trials where they may be in danger of intimidation or retribution. The ability to remain anonymous by sending an anonymous message or conveying information anonymously is critical to the safety of all people.

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