SunSentinel by Marc Freeman
May 18, 2018
Serving on a jury can be a bother because you have to give up your time. But should you also have to give up your privacy?
Should your name wind up in the hands of a murder trial defendant with possibly sinister motives?
Florida says yes, favoring open courts rather than anonymous jurors.
Yet when a Palm Beach County felon recently spelled out the names of his jury in a jailhouse call, and suggested they needed to “pray,” it set off a panic.
The judge tried to assure the six jurors after their guilty verdict that “nothing bad is going to happen or has happened.”
He also called the episode “unsettling” and suggested something needs to change to prevent a repeat with another jury.
“Jurors’ identifications are public record, and this is the thing we struggle with (in) the Legislature, trying to give more anonymity to our jurors to avoid this exact thing,” Circuit Judge Jeffrey Colbath explained to the four men and two women.
But even if there had been a law in place to stop juror names from going public, it would not have prevented this alarm because defendant Tavaress Wilson had full access to the names from jury selection. So the only real safeguard likely would have been a rare move to keep juror IDs from the lawyers too.
After hearing what happened, the WIlson jurors then met privately with a sheriff’s investigator at the judge’s behest and then were escorted to their cars. They could not be reached for comment despite attempts by phone in the days following the verdict.