Thursday, June 21, 2007
Pennsylvania Supreme Court: Media Has Right To Names, But Not Addresses, Of Jurors in Criminal Trial
The Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has decided that, in order to ensure openness, the press has the right to obtain the names of jurors in a criminal trial, but not their addresses. "we believe that revealing impaneled jurors’ names is sufficient. Openness is fostered by the public knowledge of who is on the impaneled jury. Armed with such knowledge, the public can confirm the impartiality of the jury, which acts as an additional check upon the prosecutorial and judicial process....Similarly, prospective jurors would be less inclined to lie during voir dire “by inducing the fear of exposure of subsequent falsities through disclosure by informed persons who may chance to be present or to hear of the testimony from others present.” ...Accordingly, disclosing jurors’ names 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....On the other hand, disclosing jurors’ addresses is not a constitutional imperative. Revealing jurors’ names is sufficient for the public to determine the identity of the jurors’ and to provide an additional check on ensuring the impartiality of the jury. Disclosure of jurors’ addresses does not advance these important functions, but merely makes these functions easier. The First Amendment is not a rule of convenience. Indeed, disclosing jurors’ addresses may ultimately hamper the operation of the jury system as a whole. Turning to the need to encourage jury service, all of the important functions served by the jury are meaningless unless there are twelve qualified citizens willing to serve as jurors. The average citizen has expressed discomfort at the prospect of being harassed by the press during or after the case is over....Similarly, jurors have expressed fear of physical harm related to serving on criminal juries....Either of these factors may make the average citizen less willing to serve on a jury, especially if he or she believes that the media, the defendant, or the defendant’s family and friends know where he or she lives. Taking in mind the tradition of accessibility, as well as the competing values of openness versus the promotion of jury service, the conclusion is inescapable. We believe the First Amendment provides a qualified right of access to jurors’ names, but not addresses."
The case is Commonwealth v. Long (J-15A&B-2006), decided May 31, 2007).