Recently, an anonymous jury was used in the high profile case of William Porter. Porter was the first of the Baltimore police officers charged in the death of Freddie Gray to stand trial. While there is precedent for using anonymous juries in certain instances, the practice has seen an uptick in recent years.
Community turmoil led to decision for anonymous jury
Gray’s death while in police custody ignited outrage among members of the Baltimore community. Because of the extensive media coverage of the case, and the ensuing conflict between police and Baltimore residents, Circuit Judge Barry Williams ordered that the jury would remain anonymous. While not unheard of, anonymous juries have been used more often for trials of gang members or terrorists.
Legal community questions the implications of more anonymous juries
Legal scholars are questioning the possible effects of this upward trend in anonymous juries. Whether the practice is in keeping with the First Amendment is under scrutiny. Another cause for concern is that more cases tried by anonymous juries could erode public confidence in the justice system. Some legal experts even posit that jurors might not practice the same diligence in deliberations if they are not publicly accountable for their verdicts.
The Porter case resulted in a mistrial, with the anonymous jury unable to reach a verdict. His new trial is set to begin on June 13. He is charged with of involuntary manslaughter, second-degree assault, misconduct in office and reckless endangerment.
Criminal charges are a serious matter. An experienced criminal defense attorney is important to make sure you receive fair treatment under the law, whether your case goes to trial or not.
Why Courts Use Anonymous Juries, Like In Freddie Gray Case, www.npr.org, Carrie Johnson, 30 Nov 2015
Mistrial declared in trial of Officer William Porter in death of Freddie Gray, www.baltimoresun.com, Justin Fenton and Kevin Rector, 16 Dec 2015