Identifying Jurors

The New York Times reports on a story from the Connecticut Post on jury selection. On Sept. 9th, the front page of the paper was dominated by a story about the jury selection process in a criminal case involving the death penalty. Incredibly, the story included identifying information about the jurors: name, hometown, and occupation. Not surprisingly, two jurors begged off the panel the next day, citing safety concerns in a death penalty case.

The paper’s editor stood by the writer. “The U.S. Constitution calls for a public trial with an impartial jury,” said the editor of the Connecticut Post. “How do you know if the jury is impartial if you don’t know who they are and something about them?”

I think he fails to realize that the judicial system can screen jurors. Is the information of interest to readers? Sure. So might be the name of the rape victim. But both are bad ideas. Here, there is real potential physical harm and near-certain psychological harm to potential jurors, many of which don’t want to serve on any criminal case, much less a death penalty case. I won’t call this irresponsible journalism but, in my opinion, this is an awful judgment by the Connecticut Post. And while they are defending the practice today, I’m betting they do not publish juror names ever again.