The media really wanted to out the anonymous Chauvin jurors

Former President Donald Trump infamously accused the free press of being the “enemy of the people.”

Nearly as astonishing as this attack by the former commander in chief is the fact that certain newsrooms seem hell-bent on proving him correct.

Consider, for example, the efforts by major media organizations to reveal the identities of the anonymous jurors who heard the case of former police officer Derek Chauvin, who was convicted Tuesday evening in the death of George Floyd.

Chauvin, who is white, knelt on top of Floyd, who is black, for roughly nine minutes, despite the latter repeating profusely that he could not breathe. Floyd died soon after the incident.

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It was an extremely difficult and emotionally loaded case. There was a major racial component to the trial, and there was a high probability for widespread violence in the event Chauvin got a light sentence or was acquitted. In other words, the court had very good reasons to obscure the identities of the jurors. It was both to ensure the impartiality of the trial but also to protect the jury from possible retaliation should it come to a supposedly unsatisfactory verdict.

It is bewildering, then, that certain newsrooms spent a significant amount of energy trying to reveal the identities of the jurors. It threatened not only the process of a free and fair trial, but it also put the jurors in potential danger.

The Minnesota-based Star Tribune, for example, published an article on Monday titled “Who are the jurors in the Derek Chauvin trial?” Its subhead reads, “Though the jurors will remain anonymous, here’s what we know about the jury seated for Derek Chauvin’s trial in the killing of George Floyd.”

The article itself ticks through the list of jurors, “juror 2,” “juror 9,” juror 19,” etc., revealing their respective races and occupations. Though the descriptions are bland enough as to allow the Star Tribune to claim it didn’t divulge explicitly identifying information, anyone who knows the jurors in real life, and knows they took off work to serve on jury duty, can easily match their identities to the descriptions provided in the news article.

CBS News, meanwhile, did an entire newscast revealing details of the anonymous jurors, including that one of them lives near where another unarmed black man, Daunte Wright, was killed last week.

Then, there’s the New York Times,which promoted a story this month on social media under the banner, “The 12 jury members and two alternates in the Derek Chauvin trial remain anonymous, and their faces can’t be shown on camera. Here’s what we do know about them.”

The report itself is titled “Chauvin Jury: A Range of Views on Race and Policing.” Its subhead reads, “The jurors bring to the table a range of views about race and policing, some forged by long life experience and some formed after the death of George Floyd.”

Like the Star Tribune article, the New York Times report is careful to list the races and occupations of the jurors, including that some are white, some are black, and at least one is multiracial. One juror is a nurse, another is a healthcare executive, and so on.

What public interest did this serve?

The court protected the identities of the Chauvin jurors for several good reasons. Why did newsrooms want to violate that anonymity? Members of the press, of all people, should understand the importance of anonymity in delicate and difficult situations.

There doesn’t appear to be any good reasons for why these news organizations did this, aside from stirring up conflict and controversy, that is. That journalists would jeopardize the health and safety of the jurors and the impartiality of a verdict, and all in pursuit of — what, clicks? — sounds an awful lot like something an “enemy of the people” would do.

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Author: Editor @Investigator_51

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