We ask a lot of our jurors. The financial and emotional burdens of jury duty can be significant even in mundane cases. Deciding another's fate is often a trying ordeal, aggravated by unintelligible instructions, hostile attorneys or court personnel, miserable working conditions, and interminable delays. The voir dire process may require jurors to reveal intimate, embarrassing, or damning information about themselves and their families that they would not voluntarily choose to reveal. Confronted with allegations of violence, injury, or abuse, some jurors become traumatized or ill. On top of all of this, jury service exposes jurors, their families, and their friends to exploitation by the press and to retaliatory threats and unwanted attention from defendants, victims, and sympathizers.
There are judges and legislators in this country who believe that risking humiliation and fear need not be part of the job description for jurors, and they have taken unprecedented steps to prove it. They have promised anonymity to jurors in all criminal cases, except in limited circumstances. In this Essay I examine these innovative efforts and encourage other judges and legislators to consider the routine use of anonymous juries in criminal cases at least in urban areas where anonymity is feasible. By alleviating juror fear, anonymity can enhance the participation of citizens in jury service, the reliability of the voir dire process, the quality of jury deliberations, and the fairness of criminal verdicts.
Juror apprehension about safety and privacy may be at an all-time high. Rudolph A. Diaz, chairman of the Municipal Court Presiding Judges Association in Los Angeles and President of the California Judges Association, has reported that many people are reluctant to serve as jurors even in misdemeanor cases and have told him that they fear being approached at home after their assigned case has ended. Fellow Judge Philip K. Mautino, Presiding Judge of Los Cerritos Municipal Court in Bellflower, California, says his wife was frightened by her jury service, and that other jurors have told him that they or their fellow jurors feared retribution if they convicted the defendant.
Nancy J. King,
Nameless Justice: The Case for the Routine Use of Anonymous Juries in Criminal Trials,
49 Vanderbilt Law Review
Available at: https://scholarship.law.vanderbilt.edu/vlr/vol49/iss1/3