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Thursday, February 26, 2004

Martha Stewart Trial: Media Wants Juror Names

Media organizations covering the trial of Westport’s Martha Stewart today asked the judge overseeing the trial to release the names of the jurors in the case when they deliver their verdict.

A federal appeals court has ruled U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum was wrong to bar reporters and the public from watching jury selection last month.

Cedarbaum has not indicated whether she will release the names.

But a letter to the judge from 17 media outlets said jurors’ names are routinely released after trials - and that interviews of former jurors benefit the judicial system.

“They promote informed discussion of the jury system, generate public confidence that deliberations are conducted fairly, and enhance performance by jurors,” the six-page letter said.

In other high-profile trials, including the O.J. Simpson murder trial, reporters have been allowed to question jurors at the courthouse after the verdict, the letter said.

Jurors are expected to begin their deliberations next Wednesday in the trial of Stewart and stockbroker Peter Bacanovic, who are accused of conspiring to lie about why the homemaking expert sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems stock in 2001.

The trial was in recess today. Closing arguments are scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

The media also asked for access to a conference on Friday in which the judge and lawyers will work out the wording of the instructions Cedarbaum will give to the jury.

The judge has indicated she will hold the session, called a charging conference, in her private robing room.

In blocking reporters from jury selection, Cedarbaum said she was acting to preserve a fair trial. She said jurors may have been less forthcoming about possible biases in the case if they knew reporters were in the room.

But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called the media “a vital means to open justice” and said the celebrity status of a defendant is not sufficient reason to keep the public out.

The appeals court decision came weeks after jury selection was complete. Media lawyers have said the decision is important in setting precedent for future high-profile cases.

The 17 media groups include The Associated Press, the major television networks and cable-news channels, parent companies of New York newspapers, and other wire services.

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Posted 02/26/04 at 09:22 PM  Permalink



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