DETROIT (AP) – Lawyers for eight people accused of being part of anti-government militia are opposing the use of an anonymous jury at an upcoming trial in Detroit.
The court file shows nothing official from U.S. District Judge Victoria Roberts. But in a filing Monday, defense attorney Richard Helfrick quotes her as saying in an email that “jurors will enjoy anonymity.”
Trial is set for Feb. 7 for eight people accused of belonging to a southern Michigan militia called Hutaree. The government claims they were scheming to kill a police officer, then attack the funeral. The defense says they’re guilty of nothing but meaningless bluster.
“The decision to empanel an anonymous jury is a drastic measure, which should be undertaken only in limited and carefully delineated circumstances,” Helfrick said. “An anonymous jury raises the specter that the defendant is a dangerous person from whom the jurors must be protected, thereby implicating the defendant’s constitutional right to a presumption of innocence.”
Roberts’ office had no comment Tuesday when reached by The Associated Press.
It’s unclear just what an anonymous jury would mean in practical terms. Helfrick suggested it could prevent defense lawyers from learning the backgrounds of potential jurors, information that could be vital to deciding whether to eliminate them from the pool.
“There is absolutely no evidence to suggest that any of the defendants have previously attempted to interfere with the judicial process or that they are likely to do so in connection with this trial,” he wrote.
Potential jurors will fill out questionnaires Jan. 18.