[Orlando, FL] A Florida state representative has proposed legislation that would make it a third-degree felony for jurors to sell their take on the trial to the highest bidder less than 270 days of completing their service.
Meanwhile, a push is on to protect jurors’ identities after a trial has ended, a sort of cooling-off period to allow public anger to subside after an unpopular verdict has been reached.
Both movements are as a result of the acquittal on murder charges of Casey Anthony, the party-dog of a mom who was unsuccessfully tried for her supposed role in the death of her daughter Caylee.
State Rep. Scott Randolph (D-Orlando), acting on complaints from his constituents outraged at hearing that a Casey Anthony trial juror has contracted with an agent and was offering up interviews for cash. The law would equally apply to jurors and media outlets.
In keeping with First Amendment rights, jurors would still be allowed to conduct an interview, just not for money. Violators could face up to five years in prison and fines as high as $10,000.
Randolph paired up with Orlando criminal defense attorney Mark NeJame to make the announcement at a press conference Thursday afternoon.
“Laws have to keep up with societal changes … this is a civic duty,” NeJame was quoted as saying, according to the Orlando Sentinel. “A jury summons is not tantamount to a winning lottery ticket.”
Expect to see and hear more about the legislation during the 2012 session.
Jurors Should Be Civic-Duty Heroes, Not Targets Of Angry Mobs
The Orlando-based Florida Civil Rights Association seeks a new state law providing additional protection for prospective, current and former jurors. Death threats and the ugly tone of comments from the public – and even members of the media (shame on you) – have many fearing for the lives of the jurors in the Anthony case.
“Public attacks and media assassination on Casey Anthony’s jurors for carrying out their civic duty threaten the foundation of Florida’s Justice System,” said, J Willie David, III, President of the Florida Civil Rights Association. “Serving on a jury should not result in public intimidation and death threats.”
Even the courts feel the same way (some times) – Judge Belvin Perry, who presided over the Anthony trial, delayed the release of the names of the jurors, fearing retribution from angry mobs and lone-wolf vigilante types. Under normal circumstances, names of the jurors are released at the conclusion of a trial.
The Orlando Sentinel has mounted a legal challenge to Perry’s wise-in-this-case decision.
The Sentinel has also reported that Rep. Randolph is also considering legislation to keep jurors’ name a secret until the “cooling off” period ends.
“U.S. citizens enjoy personal freedoms and legal rights many people in other countries only dream of,” said David. “Our court system is the cornerstone of democracy and the survival depends on the trust and confidence of the public. The protection of our rights and liberties is achieved through a strong court system – serving as a juror is a duty and a privilege and a serious and important responsibility.”
The Florida Civil Rights Association points out that the “United States Supreme Court and Florida Supreme Court have held that freedom of expression never includes illegal threats of violence towards a juror, prospective juror, a former juror, or any of their friends and family.”
Remember, any one of us can end up sitting on a jury in a trial of the magnitude of the Casey Anthony circus. Even though it is not likely, it could still happen. Would you want people with torches, signs and calls for your head camped out front of you door simply because you were fulfilling your civic duty?
- Mark Christopher
Image: Randolph offers positive debate as the House brought their version of the state budget to the floor April 1, 2010 (via official website, credit Meredith Geddings)
Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando, offers positive debate as the House brought their version of the state budget to the floor April 1, 2010.