Since their relatively recent beginnings in 1977, when the first completely anonymous jury was empaneled in a federal court in New York, anonymous juries have been used across a litany of cases: organized crime, terrorism, murder, sports scandals, police killings, and even gubernatorial corruption. And their use is on the rise. An anonymous jury is a type of jury that a court may empanel in a criminal trial; if one is used, then information that might otherwise identify jurors is withheld from the parties, the public, or some combination thereof, often for varying lengths of time.
Though not without its benefits, anonymous juries raise questions regarding a defendant’s presumption of innocence, the public’s right to an open trial, the broad discretion afforded to judges, and the impacts of anonymity on juror decisionmaking. In fact, one mock jury experiment found that anonymous jurors returned approximately 15% more guilty verdicts than their non-anonymous counterparts. The anonymous jury is unquestionably a potent tool that affords a court great flexibility to meet the exigencies of a trial head-on. But its extraordinary characteristics counsel care in its empanelment. By adopting the Seventh Circuit’s approach to anonymous juries and requiring reasoned verdicts when they are used, anonymous juries may become an “inspired, trusted, and effective” instrument of justice.
Mangat, Leonardo, "A Jury of Your [Redacted]: The Rise and Implications of Anonymous Juries" (2018). Cornell Law Library Prize for Exemplary Student Research Papers. 15.