Friday, September 14, 2007

Did The Connecticut Post Go Too Far?

THE DAY BEFORE a sentencing hearing was due to begin for the convicted murderer of an 8-year old boy and his mother, the Connecticut Post ran a long, front page story revealing the names of the jurors.

Traditionally, media outlets do not broadcast or publish the names of jurors before or during the hearing.

The Post not only provided names but hometowns and background info (jobs, military service, family, etc).

Did they go too far? Or was this fair since the trial is a public event?

The judge refused to grant a mistrial but allowed several jurors to step down.

The public already knows about the background of the murderer. Shouldn't the public know more about the people deciding the fate of the killer?

Does the public's First Amendment rights to a free press trump a convicted killer's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial?

17 comments:

Morgan said...

I think that the paper publishing just the names of the jurors might have been okay, but publishing their hometowns, jobs, and other information is a HUGE violation of privacy. I'm not sure...but it's my understanding that in some cases jurors are sequestered (?) and are required to stay in hotel rooms with no contact with the public whatsoever. Maybe this is wrong information, but I still think that it is ridiculous that the Post would publish so much personal information. The judge was definitely right in letting some jurors step down; the woman in one of the linked articles made a good point that she was worried for the safety of her kids. That's a scary thing...first you're picked to serve on a jury for a high-profile murder case, then the newspaper all but gives out your address?

If I were a juror, I couldn't help but wonder who's reading that paper that has some sort of connection to the convict and what they may or may not do for retaliation.

Crystal Hawkins said...

The Post surely went too far.. it's dangerous because people on the jury might be hounded by reporters or angry family members of the convicted murderer might seek retaliation. I think anonymity in such as case is crucial.. I personally would not feel safe if I were a member of the jury.

There is a right to press press, but as journalists you have to consider the people whose safety you could be jeopardizing.

John D. said...

That is rediculously unethical by doing that they are endangering people's very lives, not only undermining the whole idea of the justice system....

Anonymous said...

This is absolutely outrageous. Since when has the name of jurors been released through the media to the public? Never! It's never supposed to happen and I stand by any of the jurors if the decide to sue the Connecticut Post. Just because this is a high profile case doesn't mean the names should be published. What if a member of the family of the murderer decided to do something to one of the jurors because they have information now? Who's fault woud that be?
Andrew Lecointe

Doanh said...

How is this even an issue? I assumed it was absolutely illegal to do such a thing, even if some jurors were alright with it.

Ayisha said...

I totally and completely agree with everyone else. Releasing the names of the jurors served no purpose to the public whatsoever. Not only did the newspaper possibly endanger the lives of these jurors but they could have ruined many of their reputations. The newspaper is also at risk of being sued by the jurors collectively. It was a stupid mistake and I'm surprised the Editor of the paper allowed this to happen. Freedom of press should never cross the lines of personal safety.

Victoria said...

The jurors' personal information shouldn't be publicized and I think it was a dumb decision. It could possibly effect the jurors' decision because they may fear for their safety if they hand down an unpopular judgement, and or the prosecuted could always get someone on the outside to harass the jurors.

Geo said...

The proceedings of a trial are public unless otherwise stated. So reporters can watch the jury selection and gather information. Many journalists go to those and write about juries without being specific (no names, etc). Some journalists attend jury selection to meet the attorneys, judge and families.

Traditionally, the media haven't published or aired juror names or other specifics.

But if the jury is truly a "jury of peer," what is the harm of everyone knowing who everyone is? Isn't that only fair?

- George (the teacher and devil's advocate)

yvonne dennis said...

I don't see anything in the Connecticut Post's coverage that explains WHY it published this information. Do you know, George?

colin f. said...

I too, also thought it was illegal to publish the names of jurrors whether or not the trial was public and everybody knew about it. Why would they publish these names? If the family of the suspect was upset something terrible could happen to the jurrors because of the information leaked by this paper. You never saw the names of the jurrors published during such trials as the lacey peterson trial. I beleieve there should be some kind of discipline to the paper because this could be very damaging.

davonne said...

Its not a question of fair and not fair when it comes down to naming the names and personal information about the jury of a high profile murder case. Its about safty. The Post put all of the people serving on the jury, their immediate and distant family,coworkers, employers, and acquaintences in potential danger. i can see, like george said, discussing the jury without naming specifics(like names and background info) but to out right give information like that is highly dangerous and may affect the outcome of this case. there is freedom of the press but it can not indanger the safty of the public.
i agree with ayisha in asking what kind of editor would allow this; maybe an editor tied in with the defendant? who knows just a thought.

Geo said...

The media is so ready to present people SUSPECTED of crimes, but revealing info about people who are serving their public duty is off-limits?

Don't we presume guilt whenever people are handcuffed? Aren't we already doing them an injustice?

By revealing info about jurors, aren't we only leveling the playing field?

By not revealing info about the jurors, aren't we essentially assuming they are all good people?

- George (the teacher and devil's advocate)

Anonymous said...

Melissa said
Even if the trial is a public event....the names of the jurors shouldn't have been made known to the public. This action gives people the chance to do some evil things which may allow the jurors to make the wrong choice. MAP

emily gleason said...

Giving the jurors personal information is endangering their lives and the lives of their families. Should the jurors convict the defendants, whos to say that they won't have friends and family members of the acused knocking on their front door. These jurors did not ask to sit for this trial- they were selected. Knowing a jurors race, gender or other information could cause the public to cry bias at at the verdict.

Anonymous said...

I don't feel that the background of the jurors needed to be revealed. Obviously the background of the murderer was introduced because of the crime he/she has committed. But the jurors have done nothing wrong, they were chosen to decide the fate on this case, why should their personal lives be exposed? Most jurors backgrounds in many cases are not exposed so why is it different in this case? Why are these jurors backgrounds being put to the test all of the sudden? I feel it is endangering their lives and it is unnecessary to post this crucial information.

Michelle

Emily Stewart said...

I can understand wanting to know about the jurors if the trial was particularly intersting to them, but I feel like it's quite different to publish specific background info. You don't know exactly who your paper is going to reach, it could reach someone so unlikely, but the point is it still gets there and it could be harmful to the jurors that were published...especially on such a huge case. If the post wanted to publish information on the jurors it would have been considerate to ask the jurors themselves, if they (the jurors) were opposed to it the post could simply publish the ones that are okay with it. I thought that the media wasn't allowed to publish such information without the permission of the persons involved?

Chris said...

After reading the lengthy article, I am torn. Which rights trump which rights?
Can you only stand up for freedom of press, when it's convenient?
Isn't the reality that there is a price to everything? Maybe this is the ugly/unfortunate but necessary byproduct of a free press, covering a public trial.
I think that if this was common, it wouldn't be a big deal. It's going against what has been the norm, but what if it was common practice?
I DO think that in certain trials, jurors should be given the option to step down if they fear physical safety. Otherwise, I'm fine with it.
Of course I'm one of the few chuckleheads that wants jury duty...