Federal jurors' names no longer to be kept secret
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The chief judge in the U.S. District Court in the Western District of Pennsylvania today revoked a local rule that kept the names of jurors secret.
Judge Donetta W. Ambrose rescinded the July 2006 order based on an opinion by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in August in the criminal case involving former Allegheny County Coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht.
In Dr. Wecht's trial that began in January, U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab required that the names of the jurors be kept from not only the public but also from the attorneys in the case. He did this, he said, based on overwhelming media attention in the case.
But the appeals court, considering an appeal by local media organizations, said that an anonymous jury goes against American judicial tradition. Further, they said, public naming of jurors ensures an impartial administration of justice as well as confidence and fairness in the system.
Though the Third Circuit's opinion in the Wecht case did not specifically address the local rule, Judge Ambrose today said she interpreted it to mean that juror names should no longer be protected. Under her July 2006 order, jurors were to be named in court by their juror numbers only and not by name.
Dr. Wecht's trial ended with a hung jury in April. The government has said the case will be retried, but in September, the Third Circuit removed Judge Schwab from the case. A new judge has not yet been assigned.
First Published October 14, 2008 3:27 pm