The U.S. Court of Appeals in Boston ruled Friday in favor of greater transparency in how federal trials are conducted. A three-judge panel of the First Circuit Court of Appeals said judges must release the names and street addresses of jurors in a timely manner at the end of trials.
The ruling allows trial judges to refrain from releasing jurors’ addresses in special circumstances.
WBUR went to court to challenge the practice of some U.S. District Court judges in Boston who had released just the names and hometowns of jurors. The denial of street addresses meant locating some jurors was impossible.
WBUR sought the ruling in a criminal case against New England Compounding Center pharmacist Glenn Chin.
Chin was tried on charges of mail fraud, corruption and second degree murder in the case of medications that caused a fatal meningitis outbreak. He was convicted on some charges and acquitted on others. On the issue of release of jurors' addresses, the trial judge ruled that in the internet age, release of jurors’ addresses was an invasion of privacy and could expose jurors to danger.
“The Court's decision reaffirms the importance of public oversight of our court system,” said Attorney Jeffrey Pyle, who represented WBUR in the case. “Jurors perform an important service, and the quality of our justice system is improved when the media is permitted to interview jurors after trial has ended. Access to the identities of jurors has been the law in this district for decades, and the court's decision reminds us that unfocused fears about the internet are no reason to reduce accountability and transparency in our system of justice.”
WBUR and other news organizations use the addresses to locate jurors, but do not publish the addresses.