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Court Tosses Secret Jury Challenge

June 8, 1999

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ An appeals court dismissed a news media challenge to secrecy orders in the Unabomber case that protected jurors’ names and some legal filings until trial proceedings ended.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Monday that there was no need to decide whether the trial judge’s orders were legal because they were lifted after defendant Theodore Kaczynski pleaded guilty.

Charity Kenyon, lawyer for the Unabom Trial Media Coalition, said she was relieved that the court declared the case moot, without setting standards for future cases that could have broadened judges’ power to impose secrecy in high-profile trials. When the appeals court heard the case last year, judges on the panel seemed more impressed with the need for security and secrecy than public disclosure.

The coalition’s challenge stemmed from an October 1997 order by U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell which kept prospective jurors’ names and other identifying information withheld. Burrell said jurors could otherwise face unwanted attention.

The order was backed by both prosecution and defense lawyers.

Jurors’ names were released after Kaczynski pleaded guilty in January 1998 to bombings that killed three people and injured 23.

Besides keeping the jury anonymous, Burrell sealed records that contained statements by Kaczynski about other bombings, and a defense motion about the specifics of a proposed mental-state defense. Those records were also released after the guilty pleas.

The Unabom Trial Media Coalition is made up of The Associated Press, four newspapers and several radio and TV stations that covered Kaczynski’s trial.

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