Are juror questionnaires public or confidential?
Well, it looks like juror questionnaires are mostly public information with limited redaction, at the court’s discretion, for juror privacy concerns. But, it is up to each juror to raise their objection to the release of their private info.
As reported, a media coalition has filed a motion to obtain the juror questionnaires in the US v. Elizabeth Holmes blood testing wire fraud trial currently underway in San Jose California. The Media Coalition includes ABC, NBC, NY Times, Washington Post, The Daily Mail, Dow Jones, AP, and Bloomberg. They seek the unsealing of the juror questionnaires of the 12 seated jurors and the 5 alternate jurors.
Although the juror questionnaire states that the questionnaire is confidential, (see Holmes juror questionnaire pg. 2 here) most Courts have said otherwise. It seems that the public and the media have a first amendment right to obtain jury selection info which includes written juror questionnaires. Questionnaires are no different than the public information received during the voir dire stage of trial where jurors are asked questions in an open public courtroom. Both of which, become part of the public record for the proceeding.
Why does the public and the media have a right to access juror questionnaires?
The public and media have a right to hold the justice system accountable, to ensure the trustworthiness and integrity of the jury selection process.
However, the judge may redact information from the questionnaires if the jurors privacy concerns outweigh the public interest. For instance, if the info could lead to harassment, intimidation or harm to a juror or was “deeply personal matters” as in the Chandra Levy 2012 DC circuit Appellate Court decision releasing redacted questionnaires. (See other state and circuit decisions here).
My guess, the court will likely release the juror questionnaires subject to limited redaction.
However, keep in mind, juror misconduct, if prejudicial, or improper jury selection process, Holmes. like Scott Peterson or any defendant may have grounds to appeal a conviction.
Simply my opinion, what say you?
Update: 10/13/21 A hearing on the media’s motion to release questionnaires to be heard in 5 weeks, date tbd. The judge requested both sides to file briefs for the judge to consider before he decides whether to release the juror questionnaires.
Update: 11/19/21 Judge decided to keep questionnaires under seal until the verdict and will release questionnaires without jurors names, addresses and things jurors requested to be private.