(CN) – The names of jurors in former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption trial will not be released to the public until the trial’s end, a federal judge in Chicago ruled Monday.
U.S. District Judge James Zagel said he was concerned that revealing jurors’ names would compromise juror impartiality and would expose them to media harassment.
He warned of the “potential transformation of ‘jurors’ personal lives into public news’ which, may ‘unnecessarily interfere with the jurors’ ability or willingness to perform their sworn duties.'”
During jury selection, Zagel informed jurors that their names would not be made public until after the trial.
Five news organizations, including the Chicago Tribune and The Associated Press intervened, appealing Zagel’s decision. The organizations claimed they were entitled to the information under the First Amendment.
On July 2, a majority panel of the 7th Circuit ruled that the media did not have an absolute right of access, but ordered Zagel to hold hearings to vet the issue. But the circuit was divided on the issue: four judges backed a sharp dissent written by Judge Richard Posner after the court voted against having all judges hear the appeal.
In the hearings, Zagel affirmed his decision to keep the names private, saying he had already experienced public harassment about the trial and jurors could expect the same.
“It is entirely possible that this issue may be being litigated for reasons that bear less on the media’s view of what is necessary in the coverage of this trial and more on vindication of general principles of access that media has long claimed is nearly constitutionally absolute,” Zagel wrote.
Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell President Obama’s vacant Senate seat, among other charges of corruption.