August 30, 2011


First amendment gives the Press the right to publish news, information and opinions without government interference.

Sixth amendment guarantees that the defendant is tried in a court open to the public before an impartial jury.

The full accommodation of these seemingly over-lapping fundamental rights is rather challenging. The responsibility to establish a balance between the defendant’s right to
a fair trial,  the media's right to free speech  and the public's right to an open court lies squarely on the shoulders of the presiding judge: Michael Pastor, in our case.

There are several measurements that a judge could employ to establish the aforementioned balance in his court. Jury sequestration is one of them.


Sequestration is the practice of physically keeping the jury together and totally isolated from outside influences during the trial or deliberation stage, or both. This measure is usually taken only for high profile cases, where the massive media coverage may prejudice the jury's verdict, thus, violating the defendant’s six amendment rights.

In its most extreme form, when not in the courtroom hearing the case, jurors are kept under the constant supervision of a guard at an undisclosed location. Their contact with the outsiders including family is eliminated or curtailed. Any outgoing communication, if any allowed, is monitored to ascertain that their communication doesn’t involve the Trial.

It cost the state of California $3 million to sequester OJ Simpson jury for almost 9 months.

Scott Peterson jury was sequestered only during deliberation period for a week. Mark Geragos, Scott Peterson attorney requested full sequestration during the entire trial. Mr. Geragos stated “This gentleman beside me is fighting with one hand tied behind his back. I'm just trying to level the playing field.” Judge Alfred Delucchi denied the total sequestration request, reasoning that “if I was to tell people you can't see your loved ones for five months, you can't watch television, you can't listen to the radio, you're going to be locked away in a hotel somewhere ... it could have a negative effect on people who could get resentful that they've been locked up." Judge Delucchi remarked that the jurors will be exposed to outside influences regardless and that "the only place this wouldn't happen is if we parked the jury on Mars. We can't do that."

Michael Jackson 2005 Trial was heard by a non-sequestered jury and despite of the intense worldwide coverage of the trial in detriment of Mr. Jackson, jury rendered
a verdict contrary to the media verdict, acquitting him of all 14 counts of charges.


On June 20, 2011, defense counsel Michael Flanagan raised the jury sequestration issue
in the court, stating “we would really like the decision to be made based upon
the evidence that is given in this courtroom and the arguments made inside
this courtroom as opposed to what happens on the Nancy Grace Show

                                                         -Michael Flanagan

Judge Pastor asked the prosecution’s stance on the jury sequestration. Deputy Prosecutor David Walgren responded “the court had addressed the issue previously and advised all parties that the court was not inclined to do a sequestering of the jury 24/7. The People were comfortable with the court’s decision. That’s still our position.”

Judge Pastor then declared “at this juncture, I do not feel in any way, shape or form total sequestration of jury is necessary in this case. To have jurors undergo that kind of extraordinary deprivation, quiet frankly, unhealthy to the administration
of justice. I remain confident that jurors follow the law. They follow orders. I feel confident that the jurors understand their responsibility is to follow the evidence and to decide the case on the evidence and not to be influenced by the extraneous materials”. He then advised the defense team to file a motion for his consideration.

That night, Nancy Grace -notorious for her combative style- fired back:

On August 18, 2011, Conrad Murray defense team filed a motion requesting jury sequestration. “This is an unusual Trial. There is a reasonable expectation that Dr. Murray’s Trial will be the most publicized in history” stated the motion which then went on to compare Conrad Murray case to Casey Anthony trial. “Television pundits such as Nancy Grace use air time to campaign for the conviction of Ms. Anthony. By feeding on the public anger, Grace’s viewership rose to one and half million per night in June Grace engaged in continuous character assassination with regard to Ms Anthony, the woman she condescendingly referred to as tot mom.”

               And then came, in my opinion, highly incendiary and offensive remarks:

Even if the jurors are instructed not to watch any news coverage, it is unrealistic to expect an unsequestered jury to avoid hearing about the case. Therefore, complete sequestration is necessary to eliminate the high risk of jury contamination. Dr. Murray respectfully asks this court for an order sequestering the jury during the entire trial, including jury deliberations” concluded the defense motion.

On August 25, 2011, Judge Michael Pastor denied the motion to sequester the jury.

Deputy District Attorney David Walgren stated that the prosecution didn’t feel the sequestration was necessary.
There has to be a level of trust granted to the jurors
                             ~David Walgren

Sequestered juries have indicated they have felt like inmates and they feel they were being imprisoned. They are monitored 24/7, they have minimal freedom of movement and they can’t even speak to loved ones without being monitored. Many sequestered jury indicated that they found the sequestration so frustrating, so intimidating and so cruel that it actually interfered with their assessment of the evidence and the law. While I raise the issue of cost, that is not the over-riding consideration.  Justice trumps everything" stated judge Michael Pastor.
Ed Chernoff then stated that in Casey Anthony case media pundits offered their interpretation of the evidence and testimonies, acting as a quasi juror.  He then requested that the judge ban the Trial from being televised. “I am suggesting that you consider
in-court cameras, maybe amend it to prevent that particular problem” Chernoff said.
Judge Pastor responded “by problem, do you mean the exercise of first amendment? The first amendment is one of those cherished fundamental constitutional rights in the United States. That includes the right to comment.

Judge Michael Pastor then denied the motion for jury sequestration: I expect that the jurors will follow the high road and that means that they will not be in the receipt of or in contact with information regarding this case. I have tremendous faith in the jury system and in the individual promises of jurors. The defense motion is denied."

In summary, Conrad Murray jury won't be sequestered and the Trial will be televised.


  • Preventing exposure of the jurors to prejudicial publicity
  • Minimizing pressure from public for a particular verdict
  • Ensuring juror safety from harassment during trial
  • Promoting a perception of fairness due to no outside influences


  • It is financially costly to the government
  • If an impartial jury isn’t acquired in the first place then it can’t be maintained by means of sequestering
  • It doesn't undo prejudice based on pretrial media coverage
  • It imposes jurors emotional harm if the sequestration period is long
  • It may be counter to truth-seeking because it:
                  v  Can lead to a non-representative jury because only limited categories
of people are available for a jury that will be sequestered.
v  Can cause jurors to rush to judgment to escape sequestration.
v  Can cause the jurors to identify with the government (as caretaker) or against the government (as the jury’s jailer).

Marcia Clark on jury sequestration

"When jurors are forced to spend day and night with each other, apart from their families and friends, they become a tribe unto themselves. Because they only have each other for company, and because most people prefer harmony to discord, there’s a natural desire to cooperate, to compromise in order to reach agreement. And they have no safe retreat. If they disagree with their fellow jurors, they can’t go home to
a husband, a wife, a friend, where they can regroup and marshal their energies. Make no mistake about it, sequestration is no picnic and I have sympathy and respect for the jurors who put up with that incredible hardship.

We can’t ignore the mental and emotional impact it has on the jurors—an impact that thwarts the whole point of drafting twelve individuals to decide a defendant’s fate" ~Marcia Clark, OJ Simpson prosecutor

Related Link:
Conrad Murray motion for sequestered jury


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