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Hastings Communications and Entertainment Law Journal

Abstract

Although jury deliberations are kept secret, jurors sometimes speak out to the press after the conclusion of a trial about the rationale for their verdict, what pieces of evidence were important to their decision, and similar issues. Some argue that post-verdict juror interviews are harmful to the very foundation of the jury system, because they endanger defendants' fair trial rights, invade jurors' privacy, and distort public perception of jury verdicts. However, others, such as the author, consider these post-verdict interviews important, because they permit the public to gain a better understanding of the verdicts as well as the nature of jury service. Especially in controversial cases, the author believes the public is more likely to accept a verdict when citizens are privy to jurors' explanations, instead of those decisions being shrouded in mystery. In answering criticism of post-verdict juror interviews, the author examined and analyzed over seven hundred articles in the Houston Chronicle where jurors spoke to the press, and concluded that anxiety over the perceived negative effects of post-verdict interviews is largely unfounded. The author argues that given the undeniable free speech claims associated with postverdict interviews, and the potential benefits of such interviews with respect to public understanding and acceptance of verdicts, any legislative or judicial attempts to routinely restrict juror interviews would violate both the spirit and the letter of the First Amendment.

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