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Jury selection in state's first death penalty case will be open

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Jury selection in state's first death penalty case will be open 04/06/98 NEW YORK--In late March, the Brooklyn trial court…

Jury selection in state’s first death penalty case will be open

04/06/98

NEW YORK–In late March, the Brooklyn trial court justice presiding over the trial of Darrel Harris, the first defendant to be tried under the state’s 1995 death penalty law, held that the jury selection process will be open to the public. The court based its decision on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that criminal trials are presumptively open to the public.

However, Kings County Supreme Justice Anne Feldman said that jurors who affirmatively request privacy while answering sensitive questions will be allowed to respond out of the presence of the press.

Feldman also said that she will give jurors the opportunity to maintain anonymity on questionnaires containing “personal and philosophical” questions.

Feldman ruled that the jury will not be anonymous, and that the names of potential jurors who are not selected will also be made available to the press.

Harris asked Feldman to close the courtroom during voir dire and to maintain an anonymous jury, arguing that potential jurors would be intimidated by the large media presence, and therefore would not respond with candor to questioning by attorneys. The request for secrecy was challenged by The New York Times and the New York Daily News. The district attorney also opposed closing the courtroom.

Harris, a former corrections officer, is on trial for murdering three people during a robbery of a Brooklyn social club in 1996. (New York v. Harris; Media Counsel: George Freeman, New York City)