Media Wants Names of Martha Stewart Jurors
By ERIN McCLAM
The Associated Press
Thursday, February 26, 2004; 7:45 PM
NEW YORK - Media organizations asked the judge overseeing the Martha Stewart trial to release the names of the jurors in the case when they deliver their verdict.
A federal appeals court has ruled that U.S. District Judge Miriam Goldman Cedarbaum was wrong to bar reporters and the public from watching jury selection last month.
Cedarbaum has not indicated whether she will release the names. But a letter to the judge Thursday from 17 media outlets, including The Associated Press, said that jurors' names are routinely released after trials and that interviews of former jurors benefit the judicial system.
"They promote informed discussion of the jury system, generate public confidence that deliberations are conducted fairly and enhance performance by jurors," the six-page letter said.
In other high-profile trials, reporters have been allowed to question jurors at the courthouse after the verdict, the letter said.
Jurors are expected to begin their deliberations March 3 in the trial of Stewart and stockbroker Peter Bacanovic, who are accused of conspiring to lie about why Stewart sold 3,928 shares of ImClone Systems stock in 2001.
Also Thursday, lawyers picked up the judge's draft of legal instructions she will give to the jury. The draft included instructions on all nine charges in the case, a person who saw the document said on condition of anonymity.
The judge is considering defense motions urging her to throw out some or all of the counts. She plans to hear additional arguments Friday, when she decides on the final wording of the instructions.
The media organizations also are asking for access to that meeting, called a charging conference, but Cedarbaum plans to hold the session in her private robing room.
In blocking reporters from jury selection, Cedarbaum said she was acting to preserve a fair trial. She said jurors may have been less forthcoming about possible biases in the case if they knew reporters were in the room.
But the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals called the media "a vital means to open justice" and said the celebrity status of a defendant is not sufficient reason to keep the public out.
The appeals court decision came weeks after jury selection was complete. Media lawyers have said the decision is important in setting precedent for future high-profile cases.
Besides the AP, the 17 media groups include the major television networks and cable news channels, parent companies of New York newspapers and other wire services.
© 2004 The Associated Press