Although it is rare, judges sometimes choose to sequester, or isolate, a jury in high-profile criminal trials. Basically, the jurors are kept away from other people and outside influences for the duration of the trial. In this article, we will explain jury sequestration and answer common questions about the process, including the advantages and disadvantages of sequestering a jury.
What is jury sequestration?
Jury sequestration is the process of keeping all members of the jury away from the public and press during a trial. Sequestered jurors are typically put up in a hotel and are not allowed to watch television, read newspapers, or use social media. They may have limited use of their phones, but only under the watchful eyes of bailiffs or court personnel. They are also not allowed to discuss the case with anyone except for their fellow jurors – and only then when it is time to deliberate.
Why do judges sequester jurors?
The purpose of sequestration is to protect the jury from outside influences and ensure that they base their verdict solely on the evidence presented in court. Watching the news, speaking to family or friends, or even overhearing conversations outside the courthouse could impact their ability to make a fair and impartial decision. For example, if a jury were to inadvertently see or hear something about the case outside of court, it could affect their deliberations.
What are the disadvantages of sequestering a jury?
Sequestration can be stressful to jury members who are away from their family, jobs, and normal daily routines. It is not uncommon for jurors to feel isolated, bored, and anxious while they are sequestered. This is why judges typically try to avoid sequestration whenever possible. In addition, jury sequestration can be quite costly – the hotel expenses and meals can add up quickly. Not to mention, jurors are typically not compensated for their time beyond the standard jury fee.
Because of these reasons, sequestering a jury can sometimes be counterproductive. Sequestered jurors may be more likely to rush their deliberations in order to return to their normal lives. They also may be angry and annoyed, making jury deliberations more contentious, rather than amicable.
What are the benefits of jury sequestration?
Despite the challenges, jury sequestration does have its benefits. It allows jurors to focus solely on the trial without having to worry about outside influences. This can be especially important in high-profile or complex cases where there is a lot of public interest and media coverage. Jury sequestration can also help prevent jury tampering and ensure that jury members do not feel pressure to conform to the majority opinion.
How common is jury sequestration?
While jury sequestration is not common, it does happen occasionally in high-profile criminal cases. For example, the jury in the O.J. Simpson murder trial was sequestered for nine months. Here’s a look at some other trials in which the jury was sequestered or partially sequestered:
Do you think jury sequestration is a good or bad idea? Let us know your thoughts.
We hope you found this information helpful. If you have any questions or comments about jury sequestration or any other area of criminal law, please don’t hesitate leave us a comment below. Also, please take a moment to check out this video on jury duty.