The Michael K. Deaver trial is an example of how the press in its strident desire to get information can waste taxpayers' money and citizens' time. The Washington Post, New York Times and other news media successfully sued to stop the Deaver trial because 100 potential jurors including myself were not going to be interrogated in public about their potential alcoholism or drug abuse and opinions on the Reagan administration.
A proper trial for Mr. Deaver requires a fair and impartial jury. To screen potential jurors, U.S. District Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson presented, initially incorrectly, a procedure for interviewing individuals after they had filled out a 12-page questionnaire. Their answers were to have been made public, unless the judge approved a potential juror's special request. The judge, Mr. Deaver's lawyers, independent counsel Whitney North Seymour Jr. and the potential jurors I spoke with all thought the procedure was reasonable.
Unfortunately, on July 15, the Court of Appeals said it would be preferable to have all questioning in open court. As a result, a long and arduous jury-selection process, taking weeks rather than days, may be established, and the constitutional rights of potential jurors may be threatened. There will be a delay because Judge Jackson, unnecessarily, wants to start over with a new group of potential jurors, and the U.S.Supreme Court will be asked to rule as well. Thus, approximately 100individuals wasted more than three days, the government incurred substantial costs and Mr. Deaver will be forced to pay his lawyers extra fees.
The press may not care about costs or time because, in addition to paying reporters, it paid 20 photographers to hang around all day waiting for one photograph. As a final irony, the next batch of jurors may be less frank and open about expressing their biases and backgrounds because of the more public nature of the new procedure.
What did the press get from its lawsuit? Future jurors who may keep their biases to themselves and an incredible waste of time and money.
CYRIL W. DRAFFIN JR.