United States v. Brown
United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
250 F.3d 907 (2001)
In a high-profile trial concerning bribery charges against Louisiana’s former governor, the trial court granted the state’s motion for an anonymous jury. Various publishers and newspapers (the news media) (plaintiffs) filed an interlocutory appeal requesting that the trial court reverse its determination or, in the alternative, provide access to certain juror information upon the verdict. Stating that anonymity was a historically important element of the jury system, the trial court denied the news media’s motion and deferred its ruling on the alternative motion. However, while the alternative motion was pending, the trial court ordered that the media could not attempt to circumvent the trial court’s ruling preserving the jury anonymity, including conducting independent investigation and reporting. In support of its order, the trial court specifically cited the fact that in previous cases there had been charges alleging witness tampering, bribery, and attempts to illegally terminate a federal investigation. The trial judge also noted that an anonymous jury was appropriate if a case involved the potential for a lengthy incarceration or significant monetary penalties. The news media appealed, asserting that the trial court did not issue the required findings to maintain juror anonymity and that preventing independent investigation and reporting constituted unlawful prior restraint in violation of the First Amendment that constituted extreme measures without a sufficient basis. Prior to the verdict being announced, in an effort to thwart any attempts by the news media to circumvent its anonymous-jury order, the trial judge informed the jurors that the court would not release their identities without their consent. The trial judge also instructed jurors that they could not discuss their deliberations unless required by court order. The jurors could, however, provide their general reaction to the trial. None of the jurors elected to have their identities released.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Jones, J.)
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