NEWS MEDIA UPDATE · SEVENTH CIRCUIT · Secret Courts · April 9, 2007
Juror names in Black trial to remain sealed
April 9, 2007 · The names of jurors in the criminal fraud trial of media mogul Conrad Black will not be released to the public despite being read aloud in open court, a federal judge in Chicago has decided.
U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve on Friday denied the Chicago Tribune‘s motion to have the names unsealed immediately, saying the release of the names could hamper Black’s right to a fair trial. Black is the former chief executive of Hollinger International, which owns the Chicago Sun-Times and other area newspapers and has since been renamed Sun-Times Media Group.
Last month, the Tribune objected to the sealing of juror names, saying the measure violated the public’s First Amendment and common law access rights.
The newspaper noted that the names of prospective jurors had already been read aloud – and the last names spelled – in open court during the jury selection process. Given that, the Tribune said, “it can hardly serve any compelling interest to now retroactively seal the names of the final list of jurors and alternates, rather than allowing the reporters and public to confirm information that has already been made public.”
The Tribune noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has said a judge may not “unring a bell” and prevent already public information from being disseminated further.
St. Eve, however, said she was not convinced there was a First Amendment right to juror names during a trial and even if there was, she would deny the request to prevent jurors from being contacted and to risk publicizing their personal lives.
Among the cases St. Eve referred to in her ruling was the criminal corruption trial of former Illinois Gov. George Ryan. During Ryan’s trial, the Tribune revealed that two jurors had concealed past arrests and convictions. Those jurors were dismissed, and the jury – with two substitutes – convicted Ryan of all 18 counts.
St. Eve ended her opinion with a warning, saying she expected the Tribune and other media organizations to “continue to respect the jurors’ privacy” or risk losing their press credentials for the rest of the trial.
A Tribune article Saturday stated that the newspaper does not contact sitting jurors as a matter of practice.
(United States v. Black, Media Counsel: Eric S. Mattson, Sidley Austin LLP, Chicago) — RG