Skip to content

Positive signs for access, though jury selection still largely closed

Post categories

  1. Court Access
The Associated Press and three other media outlets will not pursue further litigation in response to the mostly closed jury…

The Associated Press and three other media outlets will not pursue further litigation in response to the mostly closed jury selection for the trial of Scott Roeder who is accused of murdering a later-term abortion provider in Kansas.

Judge Warren Wilbert ruled earlier that jury selection for the case would be closed entirely. In response, the AP and three other media outlets appealed the decision to the Kansas Supreme Court which ordered Wilbert to reconsider his ruling, the AP reported. Wilbert's latest ruling granted courtroom access to the four media outlets only after the jury pool is narrowed to 42 people and after all of the jurors have undergone voir dire questioning about "sensitive" issues.

Lyndon Vix, attorney for the AP, believes that the judge went beyond what prior case law compelled. "The judge ruled in a paternal way," Vix said."Instead of waiting for potential jurors to request a closed voir dire the judge presumed that that would be the best thing."

In response to the Kansas Supreme Court's order, Wilbert kept the questions about sensitive issue closed to the media. "The judge did that because in the jury questionnaire it says that the answers will be confidential and he wanted to keep that promise form a paternalistic standpoint," Vix said. "Also . . . the judge believed that one juror's opinion could poison the trial even if they wanted to be questioned in public."

For the first time the Kansas Supreme Court has established two qualifications for a jury selection to be closed to the public. First, a judge must establish a present danger to not closing jury selection. Second, a judge must consider reasonable alternatives for closing jury selection.

The appeal by media groups for an open jury selection was the first of its kind in Kansas, and the case has set a precedent that leaves the media community hopeful. "We pretty much got everything we asked for," Vix said. "In our jurisdiction any victory for the media we like to have for future references."