Trial of Police Officer Conducted with Anonymous Jury
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.