Preparation and Expectation for a High-Profile Jury Case

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The general expectation for a high-profile jury case is that it will ultimately lead to a trial by jury. While significant pretrial developments can sometimes result in a non-trial resolution of the case, the overall trajectory of the case includes the possibility of a jury trial. Dedicated court personnel will oversee the management of the jury and will keep everyone up to date with appearance dates, materials, guidelines to follow, etc. With high-profile cases, there could be potential need to sequester the jury, people from a different county brought in, or even use an “anonymous jury.”

What is an Anonymous Jury?

  • The highest level of anonymity is achieved when only the court possesses identifiable juror information, with no disclosure to lawyers, parties, the public, or media, and these restrictions on access to juror details are in place indefinitely.
  • A somewhat less stringent approach allows the court and legal counsel access to identifying information, while excluding the parties, public, and media.
  • An even less restrictive measure involves granting access to juror information for counsel and the parties, but not for the public or the press, with these restrictions also extending indefinitely.
  • On the least restrictive end of the spectrum is a scenario where the court, legal counsel, and parties have access to juror information both before and during the trial, while the public and the press gain access only sometime after the verdict is announced.
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Amber Heard Johnny Depp high-profile trial

Publicity and Other Concerns

In certain situations, ongoing trial publicity or concerns about juror intimidation and tampering can jeopardize the case’s outcome. Trial judges must have a good understanding of their state’s laws when contemplating sequestering a jury to ensure legal compliance. Moreover, the judge and the high-profile case team will handle the following:

  • Evaluating the expenses related to jury sequestration, including law enforcement costs.
  • Coordinating with hotels to make necessary arrangements, such as the removal of televisions.
  • Planning for transportation and meal arrangements.
  • Providing suitable accommodations for jurors with special dietary, health, or religious needs.
  • Ensuring opportunities for jurors’ recreation.
  • Facilitating contact between jurors and their family members.
  • Assuring that the officers responsible for guarding the jurors comprehend their duties and responsibilities.
  • Meeting the basic human needs of jurors, including laundry facilities and opportunities for exercise.
Alex Murdaugh High Profile murder trial with jury

High-profile cases present jurors with unique and highly demanding experiences. These cases are often longer than expected, and jurors are unable to alleviate stress by discussing the case with their family or friends during the trial. Also, jurors may face persistent scrutiny from the media, acquaintances, and loved ones regarding their decisions. It is vital to address these issues to assist jurors in managing their experiences.

  • Jurors are not obligated to engage with the media.
  • If any jurors wish to speak with the media at the trial’s conclusion, arrangements should be made for them to address the media as a collective group.
  • There should be arrangements in place to allow jurors to access their cars without obstruction.
  • The trial judge should consider offering “debriefing sessions” to jurors, allowing them to have informal conversations with a mental health professional to discuss juror stress and any other concerns they may have.
  • If available, jurors will be provided with the court’s brochure on coping with stress related to challenging jury service.
  • Community support resources should be given to those jurors who are experiencing difficulties because of their jury service.

Smart Questions to Ask the Jury Manager

  1. What is the electronic device policy in and out of the courtroom?
  2. If it’s a longer trial, is there an option of issuing regular payments to ease the financial burden?
  3. Will there be counseling available for jurors’ post-trial?
  4. Do jurors have to speak to the media afterwards?
  5. What kind of confirmation should be given to employers?
marker drawn jury box

Research for this article was done with the National Center of State Courts and USCourts.gov article How Courts Care for Jurors in High Profile Cases.

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