A judge and a criminal defense lawyer were critical of the plan to make juror information confidential, while a prosecutor said the proposal doesn’t go far enough to protect jurors from harassment.
Jurors fear retaliation from disgruntled litigants, said King George County Commonwealth’s Attorney Matt Britton (pictured). “They’re scared,” he said, referring to the prospect for violence. “It is rare but it does happen.”
Britton described two cases – one where a convicted traffic offender tried to contact members of his jury, another where a defendant with a record of felonies threatened to “fix” a jury. Britton said the rules should be changed to keep criminal defendants from getting hold of juror information.
Circuit Court Judge Clifford Weckstein argued that a few incidents of threats against jurors are insufficient to overcome the fundamental right of the public to openness in the judicial process.
The juror anonymity proposal is in the comment stage before the Supreme Court’s advisory committee on rules of court.
Britton and Weckstein spoke today (Friday, October 16, 2009) at the annual conference of the Virginia Coalition for Open Government in Staunton.