Court Hears Arguments on Press Organizations’ Motion to Unseal Jury Questionnaires – Public’s Access to Voir Dire and Trial
San Francisco, CA – Federal District Court: Today the Court heard arguments from Barry Bonds’ defense team, the US Attorney, and the Attorney for the Press Organizations on whether or not the Court would unseal information regarding the prospective jurors in this case. The court will issue its ruling in the coming days. Also, the Court requested that the Defense and Government agree upon what instruction the Judge should tell the jury about “why” Greg Anderson is not testifying.
It has long been upheld that there is a constitutional right of access to a criminal trial which includes access to the process by which jurors are selected. At least in California, this includes access to the written juror questionnaires. Notwithstanding this long upheld precedent, there are limited exceptions where the Court can control access. For the Bonds case, it appears that the Court, without solicitation, ordered the sealing of the prospective juror questionnaires. The Attorneys for the Press Organizations requested that the Court vacate this order and grant immediate access.
At issue today in the Court was whether or not the public would have access to prospective juror information obtained during voir dire(the questioning of prospective jurors in court). Voir dire is used to determine if any juror is biased and/or unable to deal fairly with the issues or if there is cause to not allow a juror to serve. In addition, one of the inherent purposes of the voir dire is for the attorneys to get an understanding of the personalities and likely views of the people on the jury panel.
In Opposition, the United States Attorneys cited a memorandum and opinion which came up in the Rod Blagojevich matter, wherein that Court limited access to the names of the jurors and the questionnaires in an effort to allow “jurors to remain anonymous during and for a brief period after trial …” See Blagojevich, 2010 WL2934476. Further, the defense did not oppose the US Attorney’s Opposition.
In addition, the parties also discussed the procedural matters for the trial as well as the need for agreement over evidence that the Government intends to include on its Exhibit list regarding voice messages left on Kimberly Bell’s voice mail. The Court will hear arguments on the voice messages on March 17, 2011.
Legal Analyst Steve Moskowitz has his team covering the court proceedings to witness what evidence is being admitted, which evidence is crucial to the Bonds case and what other topics are occurring in the courtroom and might play a role in the case. Attorney Steve Moskowitz is featured on Sports and the Law every Thursday evening on Chronicle Live and provides the legal perspective on athletes that are accused of wrong-doing, the legal issues of the NFL, NBA, and MLB, backroom deals and more. Steve is also the senior partner of the Law Offices of Stephen Moskowitz, LLP. For over 30 years Steve and his Law Firm, located in the San Francisco financial district, resolve tax-related issues and a wide variety of other tax and legal matters.
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