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State Supreme Court says Karl Long jurors' names are public

| Thursday, May 31, 2007

HARRISBURG — The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday that jurors' names should be made public — but not in all cases — and that there is no constitutional right to learn their addresses.

The 5-0 decision overturned a Westmoreland County judge who had withheld the names of the jurors who convicted podiatrist Karl Long of suffocating his wife.

"Disclosing jurors' names furthers the objective of a fair trial to the defendant and gives assurances of fairness to society as a whole," wrote Chief Justice Ralph Cappy. "But the average citizens' concern that the media will be camped out on their front lawn and fear of physical harm can be alleviated."

The court said judges can seal the names of jurors if they make "on the record findings" that show it would "preserve higher values" — juror safety, jury tampering or juror harassment, for example.

In the 2003 trial of Long, Cappy wrote, Judge Jay Ober was motivated by unsubstantiated concerns for the jurors' privacy, and that did not meet the newly articulated standard.

"General concerns for harassment or invasion of privacy would exist in almost any criminal trial," Cappy wrote. "Rather, the closure must be supported by specific findings demonstrating that there is a substantial probability that an important right will be prejudiced by publicity and that reasonable alternatives to closure cannot adequately protect the right."

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