Commonwealth v. Fujita: Massachusetts SJC Rules Jury Lists to Be Made Public, January 27, 2015

Overlooked to an extent because of the concurrent Blizzard of 2015, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ("SJC") issued an historic opinion today in the case of Commonwealth v. Nathaniel Fujita. The Fujita case was a murder trial that resulted in a guilty verdict against Mr. Fujita for killing his ex-girlfriend.  This appeal, however, arose from the trial court's ruling on a motion from The Boston Globe to reveal the jury list, which contained the jurors' names and addresses from the trial, to determine whether the jurors would be willing to be interviewed by The Globe after they had rendered their verdict.

In Fujita, the SJC ruled that "the public's long-term interest in maintaining an open judicial process, as embodied in the United States Constitution and Massachusetts common law, requires that a list identifying the names of jurors who have been empanelled and rendered a verdict in a criminal case be retained in the court file of the case and be made available to the public in the same manner as other court records."    The Court noted that Massachusetts common law, tradition and trial practice, dating back to the Boston Massacre trials in 1770, has been that juror information be known to the public.  The Court noted that the names of the jurors who acquitted the British soldiers accused in the Boston Massacre were known to the public.  Another case cited but the Court was the 1806 trial of Thomas Selfridge, a Boston attorney accused of murder, on whose jury Paul Revere sat.   Paul Revere and the other jurors names were public information.

The Fujita ruling did not change the confidentiality of the juror questionnaires, which are confidential and are to be destroyed after the trial by the trial court pursuant to Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 234A, sec. 23.  Today's ruling did, however, impose an affirmative duty on the trial courts to include a list of the names of the jurors empanelled in a criminal case as part of the court file to be made available to the public, "no later than at the conclusion of the trial".

Attorney Mark Stevens
Admitted in Massachusetts & New Hampshire
Law Offices of Mark Stevens
5 Manor Parkway
Salem, NH 03079

Attorney Mark Stevens is a Salem, New Hampshire criminal defense lawyer.

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