Davidian Jury — Kept
Safe or In The Dark?
(San Antonio) — On December 6,1993,
presiding Judge Walter Smith ordered an anonymous jury impaneled to hear the
case against the Branch Davidians. Jury selection began in San Antonio on
January 10, 1994. The reason given was "to protect the privacy, integrity
and security of the jurors" because "Many members of the public have
expressed highly emotional reactions and attitudes toward the government agents
and the Defendants." This reasoning led the press and the public to
conclude that there was a high probability of danger to the jurors.
Between December 14-20, several of the
defendants filed motions objecting to the Court's ruling on juror anonymity.
They felt the ruling would "cause members of the jury panel to believe
that the Defendants are dangerous and violent," and thus "unduly
prejudice" the jury against the defendants.
Judge Smith denied their motions on December 30
stating that, although such a procedure "generally involves organized
crime or some other violent criminal organization" and was done "to
protect prospective jurors from harassment or retaliation from ... defendants
accused of murder," he was "not as concerned about the possibility of
the Defendants or their associates threatening the jury members." Instead,
his concern was:
"... with various members of the public
that have expressed highly emotional reactions to this case, and have expressed
an interest in affecting its outcome. It has been reported, for example, that
an organization plans to ... hand out leaflets to potential jurors about how
they should ignore the law and follow their conscience."
FIJA (Fully Informed Jury Association)
considered this a reference to itself and its activities since it is the only
organization known to use this means to educate jurors about their rights,
powers, duties and responsibilities, and which has publicly expressed its
intent to do so outside the Federal Courthouse in San Antonio during the Branch
It filed a motion on January 10 explaining that
FIJA does not advocate that jurors ignore the law and follow their conscience,
but that they be informed of their right and power to do so, if necessary, to
render a just verdict. The motion went on to say that FIJA information is
general in nature, not case specific, and is not intended to influence the
Branch Davidian jurors to vote one way or the other. The organization targets
high profile cases because they provide an opportunity to educate large numbers
of people efficiently. The motion also asked the Court to release the entire
Qualified Master Jury Wheel for the San Antonio Division of the Western
District Court, thus far denied to FIJA by the Clerk of Court.
by Benedict D.
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