Judge will allow reporters to hear questioning of jurors

July 05, 1991

Baltimore Circuit Judge Marshall A. Levin has reversed his order barring reporters from the questioning of potential jurors in the asbestos trial.

Mary R. Craig, a lawyer for The Evening Sun, argued that the public cannot be barred from the questioning process, known as voir dire, unless a juror specifically requests that questions be asked in the judge's chambers.

The court, Craig said, then must determine whether the juror's privacy is outweighed by the public right of access to the proceeding.

Craig cited a 1984 U.S. Supreme Court case which said the guarantee of open proceedings in criminal trials extends to the questioning of prospective jurors.

Levin noted that the questions posed to jurors sometimes delved into "very private matters."

But the judge decided to open the proceedings and leave it up to the potential jurors to ask for a closed hearing whenever the questions went into private matters.

Jury selection began anew last month after the judge dismissed an original pool of 51 prospective jurors. The original jurors were hTC dismissed one month into jury selection after the defendants mistakenly faxed a copy of its psychological reports on jurors to the plaintiffs.

The trial, a consolidation of 9,032 asbestos personal-injury claims, is expected to begin early next month.

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