Was It Right to Release Cosby Juror Names?
The judge ruled to release the Bill Cosby juror names after the comedian’s sexual assault trial. If you were a juror, would you want to be identified?
I don’t know anyone who looks forward to the notion of jury duty. But imagine being selected to sit on a trial as high-profile as Bill Cosby’s sexual assault case: would you want to be part of such an intensely-scrutinized case, and then face the fact that your names would be released to the public?
After the 79-year-old comedian’s trial ended in a hung jury, the judge initially refused to release the Cosby juror names. But several media outlets filed a motion arguing the names should be released because of the First Amendment. Judge Steven T. O’Neill ruled a 2007 State Supreme Court ruling gave him no choice but to release the names, but he did so only after instructing jurors that they may not discuss what was said in the jury room during deliberations.
The judge said that if jurors had been identified during the trial, reporters would have contacted their families, a move that would have only added to the pressure they were already under because of all of the attention the trial itself was getting. The judge also claimed journalists had ignored his order that prohibited them from attempting to contact jurors.
“Withholding the names of the jurors in this case until the declaration of mistrial was necessary to protect the privacy and confidentiality of the jurors with the ends of ensuring a fair and impartial trial,” he wrote in his ruling.
It’s interesting to note that both the prosecution and the defense requested that the judge deny the motion to release the names out of concern doing so could affect jury selection in an anticipated second trial.
Which takes us back to my original point: if you knew you were going to sit on this high-profile a trial, and you knew that at some point, during or after deliberations and a verdict, your name was going to be made public, would you want to serve on that jury?
And if you were on trial for something, would you want the potential of fear of intimidation or safety to prevent a juror from hearing your case?
ABC News has already scored an interview with one of the jurors who described the votes that led to the mistrial. I wonder if that’s a violation of the judge’s order not to discuss what happened in the jury room, but I guess that’s up to the judge to decide.
ABC News ran the story without identifying the juror, who had requested anonymity, so at least they respected that request.