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Trial of Police Officer Conducted with Anonymous Jury

Updated on December 3, 2015

Anonymous Jury Chosen to Prevent Harassment

The first of the trials following the death of Freddie Gray in April 2015 was conducted in Baltimore with an anonymous jury.

Baltimore Circuit Court Judge Barry G. Williams ordered that the jurors’ names not be revealed publicly to avoid possible harassment of them, according to a report by The Legal Forum (www.legal-forum.net).

Anonymous juries are used increasingly in recent years amid a rise in defendants accused of terrorism and other high profile crimes.

Along with them comes the controversy over whether the judicial system is operating openly under the eye of public scrutiny. Anonymous juries also raise questions about whether anyone other than a judge asking a few brief questions can determine whether jurors are really free of bias.

In the Freddie Gray case, six police officers are accused of mistreating Gray after a routine arrest in April, leading to his death as he was slammed back and forth in a paddy wagon during a rough ride while he was handcuffed. His death caused widespread civil unrest in Baltimore.

The judge granted the anonymous jury after a request by defense attorneys for Officer William G. Porter. They wrote in their court filing, In the current climate, saying not guilty, regardless of the evidence or the lack thereof presented by the state, and then returning to your daily life will take great courage on the part of the citizenry. It is possible, indeed probable, that an acquittal of Officer Porter will lead to further civil unrest. But this officer deserves his trial without any sacrificial lamb thinking on the part of jury members.

Prosecutors agreed with the motion for an anonymous jury while Porter is tried for involuntary manslaughter.

Statistics on the number of anonymous juries are not kept by the federal courts or D.C. Superior Court. However, it is known that the first anonymous jury in U.S. District Court in D.C. was for the 1989 trial of drug gang leader Rayful Edmond III.

Prosecutors and defense attorneys interviewed more than 150 potential jurors before the final 12-person jury was chosen for the Freddie Gray trial.

The city of Baltimore reached a $6.4 million civil settlement with Gray’s family over their wrongful death claim.

Judge allows anonymous jury for trial of Baltimore police officer implicated in death of local resident Freddie Gray.
Judge allows anonymous jury for trial of Baltimore police officer implicated in death of local resident Freddie Gray.

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      Tom Ramstack 20 months ago

      I think closer attention to constitutional rights might be a better idea.

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      Big E 20 months ago

      I think all the white police officers should disguise themselves as black. Racial passing if you will. The white cops has a bulls eye on him and only black skin can protect him. Like an angel.

      google Jeff Kephart. He changed his skin to black. He needs brown eyes and cut hair though.

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      Tom Ramstack 20 months ago

      The judge's order of anonymity was issued during pre-trial hearings, before the empanelment. You're right about "fear of retribution" but it's also a fine line between open proceedings and risk of reprisal. I'm not sure of the answer and I don't think the case law gives clear guidance.

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      JLR 20 months ago

      At what point did the anonimity kick in? Voir dir? Empanelment? Fear of retribution would certainly chill honest citizens from wanting to serve on juries.