Press gets access to jury questions in asbestos suit

July 07, 1991

Baltimore Circuit Judge Marshall Levin has reversed his own order, allowing reporters to be present for the questioning of potential jurors in the nation's largest asbestos personal injury trial.

Judge Levin reasoned that the questions posed to potential jurors sometimes delve into "very private matters" as he barred reporters from jury selection sessions last month.

But he decided last week to open the proceedings and leave it to the potential jurors to seek a closed hearing, agreeing with Mary R. Craig, a lawyer for The Evening Sun.

Ms. Craig argued that the public cannot be barred unless a juror specifically requests that questions be asked in the judge's chambers. The court, Ms. Craig said, then must determine whether the juror's privacy is outweighed by the public's right of access.

Jury selection began again last month after the judge dismissed an original pool of 51 prospective jurors.

The original jurors were dismissed one month into jury selection after the defendants mistakenly faxed a copy of their 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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