What does It Mean to Sequester a Jury?
To sequester a jury is to gather the members of a jury together in a location specified by the court and restrict their access to both media and the general public. A jury may be sequestered for several reasons. The jury may be sequestered in a high-profile case, or they may be sequestered when it is believed the case is one that would be likely to lead to jury tampering or threats against the members of the jury.
A jury is a group of individuals selected to hear the evidence in a trial and to render a verdict. Potential members of a jury are summoned to court by receiving a jury duty notice. The prosecutor and defense attorney then use a process called voir dire to select a jury, during which jurors are questioned to determine if they have any potential biases. Jurors can be removed from the jury pool for cause, which means the juror has a potential conflict of interest and can't possibly be fair on the case, such as having been the victim of a similar crime or being related to the defendant. The attorneys can also dismiss a certain number of members of the jury through peremptory challenges, which means they do not need to give a reason.
Once the jury is selected, the members are required to listen to the evidence in the case and make a determination on the guilt or innocence of the defendant. All defendants within the United States court system are entitled to a trial by a jury of their peers. The trial must be in front of an impartial jury.
For this reason, if it is believed the jury cannot possibly remain impartial as a result of the press attention surrounding a case, the judge may make the decision to sequester the jury. For example, in the trial of O.J. Simpson in the death of his wife, the jury was sequestered due to the frenzied press surrounding the case. If the judge believes the jury may be in danger or that someone may try to bribe or intimidate the jury, he can also decide to sequester the jury; this may occur in cases where an individual involved in organized crime is being tried.
When the decision has been made to sequester the jury, the jurors must move out of their homes for the duration of the trial. A part of the rules associated with the decision to sequester a jury also specify that the jurors cannot watch or read news coverage of the case. They often stay in a hotel where they are guarded by a law enforcement official and where their access to media is limited.
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