Anonymous jury in the Derek Chauvin trial, part of a growing trend that some legal experts are concerned about

The world recently learned a lot about the 12 juries who pronounced former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Convicted of murder Of George Floyd.

They are Racially diverse The group — 6 White Americans, 4 Black Americans, and 2 Mixed Race Americans — includes dog lovers, sports fans, single parents, insurance agents, nurses, and retirees. But what remains a mystery is its name.

Anonymous juries are still rare, accounting for only about 12 of the more than 100,000 jury trials nationwide each year.However, the rise of social media and the ease of searching the Internet raises concerns about jury safety. More anonymous juryThe shift, said by some legal scholars, can jeopardize the transparency of the legal system.

“It’s a slow, constant march towards this, and if you don’t know who is ultimately the jury, people lose confidence in the system and can be considered a faceless machine,” he said. First Amendment Clinic Secretary-General Greg Leslie said. At Arizona State University Law School in Phoenix. “Full protection of privacy will undermine the thinking of an open and accountable society.”

Derek Chauvin was handcuffed and taken out of court after being convicted during Derek Chauvin's trial of the death of George Floyd at the Minneapolis Courthouse on April 20, 2021. it was done.

Derek Chauvin was handcuffed and taken out of court after being convicted during Derek Chauvin’s trial of the death of George Floyd at the Minneapolis Courthouse on April 20, 2021. it was done.

In all proceedings, it is presumed that the jury’s information is public unless the government can file the proceedings in another way. Judges usually keep the jury anonymous if the jury is likely to receive physical harm, intimidation, or excessive media attention. Recent decisions to appoint an anonymous jury include the upcoming extortion and sex trafficking trial of singer R. Kelly, and the 2019 trial of Mexican drug trafficking organization Joaquín Guzman.

Chauvin’s trial took place almost a year after Floyd’s death. Chauvin is the result of kneeling on his neck for more than nine minutes during an encounter that originated in a forged $ 20 bill. The event has sparked national protests and social justice movements and continues to call for police reform and racial equality.

Given the spotlight that ignited the trial, Judge Peter Carhill decided that it was best not to know the name of the jury candidate.

“There is a strong reason to believe that there is a threat to jury safety and impartiality,” Kay Hill wrote in a decision last fall.

Instead, he revealed the race and age of the jury and three agents every ten years.Live trial broadcast ensured streaming access to both the media and the general public Preliminary interrogationA revelatory process in which both lawyers ask potential juries to determine their suitability for a fair judgment in a case.

So far, none of Chauvin’s main juries have come forward to discuss the case publicly. On Tuesday, a jury found Shovin guilty of two murders, three murders, and manslaughter.

More trials include an unnamed jury

ASU’s Leslie said the reduction in journalism meant that the trial was covered and fewer reporters were likely to protest the unnamed jury. He added that the presence of bloggers and other people unrelated to the mainstream media could “publish the jury’s name by people without ethical standards.”

Another issue of widespread concern about the judicial system is the need for jury colored races, and anonymous cloaks could oppose publicity, the Criminal Justice and Professional Liability Center at Duke University Law School. Said James Coleman, director of the. Durham, North Carolina. The Chauvin judge agreed to provide the jury’s race details, but this is not always the case.

“It’s important to identify the jury because the community needs to know who participated in the jury,” Coleman said. “We need to know the jury’s experience and whether certain experiences are excluded.”

When police officers’ actions were involved, Coleman said, “Some lawyers keep blacks away from the jury or limit them to one or two, compared to 10 white juries. It’s often passive, “he added.

Judge Peter Carhill read the verdict during Derek Chauvin's trial that George Floyd died at the Minneapolis Courthouse on April 20, 2021.

Judge Peter Carhill read the verdict during Derek Chauvin’s trial that George Floyd died at the Minneapolis Courthouse on April 20, 2021.

In particular, Chauvin’s jury was more racially diverse than both Hennepin County and Minneapolis. Apparently a mixed-race jury can signal the color community not to hesitate to join as a jury, Coleman said.

“To be confident that the trial is fair, we need to know that the jury includes different types of people,” he said.

But does that mean they need to be named? Some experts argue that the security provided by anonymity helps ensure a fair trial and frees juries from fearing that decisions will come back to annoy them. doing.

In a 1998 paper entitled “The Impact of Jury Anonymity on Jury Verdicts,” psychologists Lynn Hazelwood and John Brigham were anonymous compared to named juries (40%). We created an experiment for students who found a high jury conviction rate (70%). .. Anonymous juries in the experiment also “imposed the most severe punishment (expulsion) much more often than non-anonymous juries.”

In a 2018 paper entitled “Your (Edited) Jury: The Rise and Impact of Anonymous Jury,” Cornell Law School student Leonardo Mangat said, “It’s not without its benefits, but it’s anonymous. The jury raises questions about the defendant’s presumption of innocence. ” The right of the general public to a public trial. Mangat is currently the clerk of the Supreme Court of California.

Valerie Hans, a law professor at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York and a former teacher at Mangat, said there was another potential bias in acknowledging the jury’s anonymity.

“I don’t always want to tell the jury that the accused is very dangerous and needs protection,” she said.

Hans said other tools could be used to reassure the jury, including a television broadcast of the proceedings, as in the Chauvin trial.

“Watching on such a television makes it more accessible and allows the general public to see and hear the same things as the jury, which can alleviate the negative attitude towards the jury. “I will,” she said. “But that said, there are certainly cases where it justifies the jury’s safety.”

Initiation of jury anonymity related to drug cases

According to most explanations, the first trial in which the judge decided to keep the jury anonymous was the 1977 New York drug and organized crime case. gang. “

After Burns and others were convicted, the proceeding was appealed in 1979 on the grounds that the judge’s jury decision was unconstitutional. However, the Court of Appeals opposed, citing “a terrible history of attempts to influence witnesses and juries in such cases.”

In disagreement, Judge James Oaks wrote a decision that created a “totally new rule of law,” predicting that the judge would soon follow the case, as “a herd of seagulls chases a lobster boat.” ..

Some people did it right away. The mob boss John Gotti’s 1991 trial involved an anonymous jury, similar to OJ Simpson’s 1995 murder trial. In some cases, post-verdict jury safety concerns seemed appropriate.

In a 1992 trial of four police officers who beat Rodney King in Los Angeles, a part of the city erupted in riots, and a pure white jury acquittal led to threats. Some juries, later identified in some media accounts, left Los Angeles.

After a Florida jury admitted in 2011 that Casey Anthony had not been guilty of murdering her two-year-old daughter, Orlando stores posted a sign indicating the jury., I wasn’t welcomed. A jury has fled the state.

First Amendment and Jury Safety

The number of cases in which judges decide to keep juries anonymous has increased compared to decades ago, but “most judges are thoughtful about the interests they are trying to protect, so they admit it. That’s still pretty difficult, “said director Paula Hannaford Agor at the National Court’s Jury Research Center in Williamsburg, Virginia.

“The tensions throughout this debate result in the right to the first amendment, the transparency of the system, and the right of the defendant to a fair trial with the jury. The state has more jury anonymity than any other state. There are judges who are prone to becoming.

John Burris, a lawyer who was part of King’s legal team during a successful civil lawsuit against the city of Los Angeles, said the concept of an anonymous jury was “no problem.” Feeling appropriate gives them an important sense of integrity and security. “

John Burris, a co-advisor at Rodney King's civil trial in 1992, spoke to the media in a recent trial in the San Francisco area.

John Burris, a co-advisor at Rodney King’s civil trial in 1992, spoke to the media in a recent trial in the San Francisco area.

Barris, who is still practicing in Oakland, California, did not have a jury questionnaire during the King trial, and lawyers gathered as much information as possible during court interviews with members of the jury pool. He said he had to do it.

Given that judges may be able to protect jury names from even lawyers on both sides, the rise of multiple question forms for juries has led the legal team to investigate their prejudices. Barris said there was no longer a significant need to know his name.

“We’ll use those questionnaires to ask what we can do, what they see, their thoughts on guns, drugs, and mental illness, and see how they handle that information. “He said. “So sometimes when I know the jury’s name, but the general public doesn’t, is there a conflict? I think it’s okay. We’re in a way that interferes with the judicial process. I don’t want to invade my privacy. “

Barris said the biggest flaw in the current legal system is the jury, which does not represent a cross-section of the entire population. Everyone summoned for a jury duty must obey under legal penalties, but those indifferent to the service often find ways to persuade lawyers that they may not be worth choosing. .. Barris said admitting anonymity when appropriate could specifically encourage colored juries who may be concerned about public reaction to the inflammatory verdict.

“Let’s do the truth. This issue can be a concern for the jury,” he said. “The King’s verdict tore LA, so it depends on what happens.”

Despite concerns about the jury’s safety in high-profile trials, it is still rare for a jury to be seriously injured by the general public or fellow defendants after the trial. Given that, Arizona State University legal expert Leslie said the burden of proof for the appointment of an anonymous jury should remain very high.

“Today, we can identify people more easily, so the jury needs to keep it secret and gives an absolutely wrong signal about our judicial system. It must remain open and trusted. No, “he said. “And in the rare cases where it is justified, the court is obliged to disclose as much information as possible about the jury, so the public will be convinced that this is a jury.”

This article was originally published in USA TODAY: Chauvin’s jury trial was anonymous, raising concerns about U.S. justice trends