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Guidelines for covering jurors

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From the Winter 2003 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 23.

From the Winter 2003 issue of The News Media & The Law, page 23.

Journalists covering courtroom trials may attempt to interview jurors or potential jurors in an effort to explain a criminal or civil case or the inner-workings of the judicial system. But when is contact between reporters and jurors appropriate?

As a general rule, journalists may interview potential jurors. However, once a jury is impaneled, journalists are prohibited from interviewing jurors while the case is being presented and during jury deliberations.

Unless a court order instructs otherwise, after a verdict is rendered, journalists are free to interview jurors.

In certain cases, a judge may instruct a jury that they are free to refuse interviews with the media. As a result, jurors may be less willing to speak with the press. Journalists should distinguish between this instruction, which leaves the decision to be interviewed up to the juror, and a court order that prohibits the press from contacting jurors. If reporters violate such an order, they can be held in contempt of court even if such an order is later found to be an unconstitutional restraint on speech. — ST