The names and home addresses of the jurors considering Paul Manafort’s guilt or innocence will remain under seal, as they indicated Friday they would not reach a verdict in their second day of deliberation.
Seven left-leaning and left-wing news outlets — CNN, BuzzFeed, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Associated Press, Politico, and NBC News — had requested that Judge T.S. Ellis unseal that information. Judge Ellis denied the request in a hearing Friday afternoon, noting that he himself has received threats over his handling of Manafort’s trial on fraud and tax charges stemming from his conduct with Eastern European politicians years before his involvement with the Trump campaign.
“I have the marshals’ protection,” Ellis said at the hearing, according to the Hill. “I don’t feel right if I release their names.”
“I had no idea this case would excite these emotions, I will tell you frankly,” Judge Ellis added.
The press surrounding the Alexandria-based federal courthouse of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia stirred into action when word spread the jury had delivered a note to Judge Ellis. The excitement, however, was in vain. The note only asked Ellis if the jury could complete their work at 5:00 p.m. in order to accomodate an important event one of the 12 jurors wished to attend. Unlike CNN’s request, Ellis granted this, meaning the jury will not return to their deliberations until Monday.
CNN and the other outlets’ efforts to obtain the means to contact the jurors comes as part of a growing campaign to look critically at this, the first of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s criminal cases to go to trial should Manafort be acquitted of some or all of the 18 felony counts he faces.
Try to interview them to get an understanding of how deliberations went in one of the more important trials of the last few years. It’s court reporting 101, Ian. https://t.co/RNUDAWyiSs
— Tamer El-Ghobashy (@TamerELG) August 17, 2018
A Washington Post court reporter, Tamer El-Ghobashy, confirmed that coming to jurors’ homes to interview them is the purpose behind his outlet’s request. As El-Ghobashy notes, conducting such interviews after a verdict is rendered is standard journalistic fare, especially in cases with controversial outcomes. Since 1995’s landmark O.J. Simpson trial, jury deliberations in controversial acquittals have often themselves become media-driven news cycles.
Left-wing cable news and a series of op-eds, including one in the Washington Post, have slammed Judge Ellis for alleged bias against Mueller’s prosecutors over the course of the trial.
According to the Hill, Judge Ellis, in denying the left-leaning outlets’ request, claimed that more of the jury pool would have asked to be excused if the jurors had known their names would be made public. The matter is not merely academic in this case. Manafort is due to face another criminal trial in neighboring Washington, DC, shortly after the conclusion of this trial.