The general assumption for a high-profile case is that it will ultimately culminate in jury trial. Although key pretrial events can result in a non-trial disposition of the case, if the overall case trajectory encompasses the possibility of a jury trial, the jury manager should be alerted and invited to participate in the high-profile case planning early in the process. The jury manager must have sufficient time both to qualify and summons an adequate number of prospective jurors for the trial and to plan for jury-related tasks that do not usually occur in routine cases, such as distributing and compiling case-specific juror questionnaires, and arranging for juror sequestration, if necessary.
Large, urban courts will generally have a staff person whose sole responsibility involves supervising jury operations such as a jury manager, jury administrator, or jury commissioner. This individual does not necessarily have to be involved in all of the HPC Team meetings, but should be invited to attend any meetings in which jury issues are a primary focus. In smaller courts, responsibility for jury operations fall under the duties of the the Clerk of Court or court administrator, who should already be involved in the HPC Team.
- Participate on the high-profile team and attend meetings as requested.
- Be alert for the possibility that the jury might be sequestered and work with other high-profile team members to effectuate this, if necessary.
- Be aware that the jury may be selected from another county and transported in as an alternative to a change of venue.
- A fair cross section challenge is more likely during a high-profile case, assess compliance with statutory requirements for grand jury and petit jury empanelment.
- When considering the use of an "anonymous jury" consider what type of anonymous jury will be impaneled; there are a wide variety of court practices and degrees of anonymity.
- The greatest degree of anonymity is achieved when only the court has access to identifying information about jurors; no information is provided to the lawyers or parties, much less to the public or media, and the restrictions on access to juror information extend indefinitely.
- A less severe variation occurs when the court and counsel have access to identifying information, but not the parties or the public or media.
- Still less restrictive is affording access to juror information to counsel and the parties, but not to the public or press, again indefinitely.
- At the least restrictive end of the continuum is a case where the court, counsel, and parties have access before and during the trial, but the public and press are not given access until sometime after the verdict is announced.
- Communicate electronic device policies to prospective jurors.
- Consider cutting checks frequently to jurors in longer trials to help alleviate financial stress.
- Talk with the trial judge about a post-trial debriefing or the possibility of having juror counseling available.
- Talk with the trial judge about possibly offering the media an interview with jurors that would want to do so immediately following a verdict. Ensure that jurors understand that this is voluntary.
- Develop procedures for responding to employer requests for verification of employee juror attendance.
- Ensure that the existing jury pool is large enough to empanel a jury, which may require an increase in summonses.
- Communicate with the court and attorneys about how jurors will be brought in. For example, they may want to bring in jurors in waves.
- Determine who will be responsible for granting requests to be excused for hardship. Although the jury manager may have authority for routine cases, the trial judge may want to handle these personally for a high-profile case.
- Ensure the summoning process will survive appellate scrutiny.
- Be sure staffing and resources are available to send out a large number of questionnaires.
- Have a plan in place to circulate the completed questionnaires to the attorneys before voir dire.
- Be sure staff know of any special confidentiality requirements that may apply to the responses to juror questionnaires before the completion of voir dire.
- Encourage the trial judge to not promise that juror questionnaires will be automatically confidential. Jurors should have a process they can use for confidential answers on questionnaires, perhaps that is asking that a given answer be sealed or identifying that they will answer a given question in court and outside of the presence of the other jurors or public.
- Be prepared for demands by the media (and possibly the public) to gain access to the juror questionnaires early in the process and have a plan in place to manage that.
- Encourage the trial judge to make a blank copy of the questionnaire available to the media.
- In conjunction with the court administrator start to plan for any extra space requirements that may be necessary for voir dire. (This may be a big issue if jurors are called into court to fill out juror questionnaires.)
- Plan for additional seating for alternative jurors.
- Work with court security role to determine an alternate entrance/parking for jurors.
- Determine whether additional staff will be required to manage the juror summoning and qualification process.
- If additional staff are required, estimate the costs and report to the court administrator.
- As there will be a lot more jurors entering the building than normal, make sure that there are adequate staff to answer questions, direct jurors, etc.
Most states have clearly defined rules concerning when an “out-of-county jury” can be used and the procedures for doing so. The trial judge needs to be fully cognizant of these rules and ensure that all actions of the trial court are compliant with them. However, close coordination between the chief judges and court administrators in both locations will be a necessity.
- Identify the county location to be used for voir dire.
- Determine which court will issue the jury summonses.
- Coordinate any special information (if any) to appear on the summons.
- Consider setting up a dedicated juror phone line for this specific trial.
- Identify needs for juror transportation, housing, meals, etc. (as appropriate).
- Estimate costs related to using an out-of-county jury.
- Coordinate juror questionnaires, if one is used.
- If juror notebooks will be available, coordinate resources to be included.
- Work with judge and court administrator to identify and address other case-specific needs.
In some cases, ongoing trial publicity or threats of juror intimidation or tampering pose a risk to the outcome of the case. Trial judges should be familiar with the law in their state when considering sequestering a jury to ensure that they are compliant. Additionally, the trial judge and the high-profile team should consider the following other issues:
- Costs associated with sequestering a jury, including costs to law enforcement;
- Coordinating with hotel for special considerations, i.e. removal of TVs;
- Planning for transportation and meals;
- Appropriate accommodations for any special dietary, health or religious requirements;
- Ensuring some form of recreation for jurors;
- Ensuring jurors have some contact with family members;
- Ensuring the officers guarding the jurors fully understand their duties and responsibilities; and
- Ensuring that the human needs of jurors are met (laundry, exercise, etc.)
High-profile cases are unique and intense experiences for jurors. They are frequently lengthy cases and jurors obviously don’t have the ability during the trial to relieve stress by talking with their families or friends about the case. Jurors also face the possibility of ongoing scrutiny about their decision from the media, acquaintances and family/friends. It is important that these issues get addressed as it can significantly help many jurors cope with their experiences. It is important for the commissioner to arrange for the judicial officer to thank the jurors for their service.
- The trial judge should explain to jurors that they are not obligated to speak to the media.
- If any members of the jury would like to accept an invitation from the media to talk to the media at the conclusion of the trial, arrangements should be made for them to address the media as a group.
- Arrangements need to be made to ensure jurors are able to go to their cars unimpeded.
- The trial judge should consider “debriefing jurors” by allowing them to speak informally with a mental health professional about juror stress or other concerns they may have.
- If available, provide jurors with the court’s jury stress brochure regarding reactions from difficult jury service.
- Identify community support resources available to jurors having a difficult reaction to their jury service.