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A true verdict, according to the evidence

Gavel, via Concurring OpinionsSo, according to the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania (pdf), the First Amendment to the US Constitution requires public disclosure of jurors’ names (Concurring Opinions | CrimProf Blog; see generally Raskopf 17 Pepp L Rev 357 (1990); Litt 25 Colum J L & Soc Probs 371 (1992); Zanzberg (2000); Rousseau 3(2) Rutgers Journal of Law & Urban Policy (2006)). To my ears, this sounds like the premise for a John Grisham novel. On the other hand, revealing the identity of a juror in Australia would be a criminal offence (Freedom to Differ) (a clause just crying out for a movie like The Castle). In Pennsylvania v Long (31 May 2007) the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania held:

Taking in mind the tradition of accessibility, as well as the competing values of openness versus the promotion of jury service, the conclusion is inescapable. We believe the First Amendment provides a qualified right of access to jurors’ names, but not addresses. In this way, the public will be provided with enough information to confirm the identity of jurors when necessary. Disclosing jurors’ names furthers the objective of a fair trial to the defendant and gives assurances of fairness to society as a whole. (at p 18 of the transcript).

In Ireland, disclosure of jury deliberations constitutes a criminal contempt of court (see, eg, Law Reform Commision Consultation Paper on Contempt of Court (LRC, Dublin, 1991) 364-374 and Report on Contempt of Court (LRC 46–1994) [7.14]-[7.19] 50-51); hence the Courts Service jury service website explains that jurors must

keep statements made in the jury room confidential. Jurors should not discuss the case with any person other than members of the jury. It is contempt of court punishable by fine and or imprisonment to repeat any statements made in the jury room.

The Law Reform Commission has suggested some relaxations in favour, inter alia, of the kind of research the UK’s Attorney General now wants to undertake, but these recommendations have yet to be enacted. On the issue of disclosure of jurors’ names more particularly, section 16 of the Juries Act, 1976 (also here (html) and here (doc and pdf)) provides

(1) Every person shall be entitled to reasonable facilities to inspect a panel of jurors free of charge and a party to any proceedings, civil or criminal, to be tried with a jury shall be entitled to a copy free of charge on application to the county registrar.

(2) The rights under subsection (1) shall be exercisable at any time between the issue of the summonses and the close of the trial or the time when it is no longer possible to have a trial with a jury.

This is a revision of the former position under section 50(1) of the Juries Act, 1927 (also here), which provided:

Whenever jurors are summoned to attend in a Court during a sittings, a copy of the panel of jurors prepared for that sittings shall be prominently exhibited in a convenient place to which the public have access in the building in which the sittings are held and such panel shall be so exhibited on the first day on which the jurors named in such panel are required to be in attendance in the Court and shall be kept so exhibited thence forward until the last day of such sittings.

The whole of the 1927 Act was repealed by the second schedule to the 1976 Act, and the replacement of s50 of the 1927 Act by s16 of the 1976 And has clarified the position: there is limited disclosure of the identities of the members of a panel of jurors during the course of a trial, but not afterwards. Note that this relates to the panel who are summoned, and not to the jury of 12 which is actually selected from that panel. Moreover, even though speech protections under the Irish Constitution are finally getting some teeth, I doubt whether they are sharp enough for the Irish Supreme Court to reach the same conclusion as its Pennsylvania counterpart. On the contrary, I suspect that an Irish Court would be astute to protect the jurors’ rights to privacy (Winstein 70 Temple Law Rev 1 (1997); Monsen 21 Rev Litig 285 (2002); see also King 49 Vand L Rev 123 (1996)) for all sorts of reasons, practical as well as principled.


PS The title of the post comes from the oath each juror swears (section 19(1) of the 1976 Act):

I will well and truly try the issue whether the accused is (or are) guilty or not guilty of the offence (or the several offences) charged in the indictment preferred against him (or her or them) and a true verdict give according to the evidence.

Update (22 June 2007): There is a useful post on MediaLaw Prof Blog extracting the essential elements of Pennsylvania v Long.

4 Responses to “A true verdict, according to the evidence”

  1. Ronan Lupton says:

    Have you seen Copland v. UK ECHR judgement? http://www.bailii.org/eu/cases/ECHR/2007/253.html

    More of a privacy related matter but nonetheless a short and interesting read under Article 8 of the ECHR. Although clearly there are undertones of Article 10 being excluded.

  2. Mark Tighe says:

    Interesting points Eoin,

    About 6 months ago I interviewed a high profile person who was found not guilty of an offence. He told me that he’d contacted his jury foreman after the case and the two of them contemplated gathering all the jury together to discuss the case.

    It didn’t happen but I ran a story in the Sunday Times naming both the “not guilty person” and the jury foreman. I’d been told talking to or naming the juror was breaching the Jury Act 1976 by the Courts Service but a thorough look through the Act didn’t back that up and we went ahead and published.

    Publishing jurors’ names is not illegal here I believe, although whether it is necessary is another issue…

    Mark Tighe

  3. Eoin says:

    Another link: the Association of Law Teachers‘ 36th annual Lord Upjohn Lecture was delivered at the Inns of Court School of Law on 6 December 2002 by the Honourable Lord Reed on the topic of of the confidentiality of jury deliberations, and was published in the Law Teacher vol 37 no 1, pp1-17.

  4. […] a previous post, I looked at the restrictions on publishing jury deliberations. Now comes the news that, in the UK, […]

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Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I'm Eoin O'Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie - the Irish for rights. "Cearta" really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides some sense of the scope of this blog.

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