SUBMITTED NEWS RELEASE
by Sean Whaley – Nevada News Bureau
CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court today ruled that questionnaires used to pick juries in criminal court proceedings are “presumptively” subject to public disclosure barring some finding that doing so could jeopardize a defendant’s right to a fair trial.
The ruling is the result of an effort by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Associated Press to obtain the questionnaires used to seat a jury in the O.J. Simpson robbery trial in Las Vegas in 2008.
The court ruled on the matter even though the trial is over and Simpson was found guilty of the kidnapping and armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers at the Palace Station in 2007. Simpson is now serving a minimum nine-year prison term.
The court noted that the issue is likely to rise again in a future criminal proceeding.
The Review-Journal and The Associated Press sought access to a copy of the blank juror questionnaire before juror questioning by the attorneys in the case commenced, and access to the completed questionnaires of the jurors and alternates who were ultimately selected to serve as members of the jury.
Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass denied the request by the media to intervene in her decision to keep the juror information confidential.
After the jury was seated and sworn, the district court permitted the press to access the blank juror questionnaire and juror questionnaires with some information redacted were released after the trial.
But the Supreme Court, in a 6-0 decision, said Glass needed to make specific findings before rejecting the media request to have access to the juror information but did not do so.
The court said Glass failed to “articulate specific findings that would defeat the First Amendment’s presumption of openness.”
The court ordered the release of all blank and completed juror questionnaires to the media organizations.