Chicago's news media have filed a joint motion with Judge James Zagel, asking him to reverse himself and reveal the names of prospective jurors in the upcoming Rod Blagojevich corruption trial.
Previously, Zagel has declared an intention to refer to the jurors only by number, and reveal their names only at the trial's conclusion. But in asking for the jurors' names to be revealed, the media motion notes that "The Seventh Circuit holds that criminal trials are not to be decided by anonymous persons, absent extraordinary circumstances." It goes on to state that juror identities allow the public to verify the impartiality of the jury, ensuring fairness.
Zagel had expressed concern that the revelation of jurors' names during a high profile trial would tempt bloggers to contact them during the testimony phase, compromising the proceeding. Media representatives who filed the motion argue that "the Court certainly has the tools at its disposal to prevent juror contact about the case with bloggers or anyone else. It can hardly be the case that the advent of Internet weblogs is grounds for upending hundreds of years of tradition and jurisprudence." The motion makes clear that some reporters may want to investigate the background of jury members, as was the case during the George Ryan corruption trial, where the criminal backgrounds of some jurors were revealed near the trial's conclusion.
The motion was filed with Zagel by the Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, The Illinois Press Association, the Illinois Broadcasters' Association, and the New York Times.