‘New territory in Georgia,’ as prosecutors want jurors’ names shielded in Trump case

Prosecutors in Fulton County, Atlanta, want a judge to restrict the defendants and the media from publicizing the identities of future jurors in the criminal case focused on former President Donald Trump in Georgia.

Prompted by the publication of personal details of the grand jury members who indicted Trump and his associates in August for a wide-ranging racketeering scheme, the request was made on a far-right website.

In the trial concerning election interference, District Attorney Fani Willis has requested Fulton Superior Judge Scott McAfee to prohibit the dissemination of the appearance or identifiable personal details of potential jurors or jurors.

If the names of the jurors were to be made public in her “Wednesday motion,” it is clear that it is highly likely that they will be doxed. Undoubtedly, if this were to happen, it would undeniably have an impact on the jurors’ ability to decide on the issues before them impartially and without any influence from outside sources.

According to the attached affidavit of Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum, the home addresses, phone numbers, and vehicle information of the grand jurors were targeted with harassment and threats on a website managed by a Russian firm.

According to him, the current situation is putting a strain on agency resources, referring to a strategic measure implemented by local law enforcement to safeguard grand jurors. Schierbaum’s writing did not provide specific information about the security measures involved.

Following the exposure of the grand jurors’ personal information, the affidavit from the Atlanta chief indicates that law enforcement implemented additional measures to ensure their well-being. However, WABE stated in July that under Georgia law, indictments must include the names of grand jurors, even in cases that are highly debated.

Doxing, also known as doxxing, is the act of publicly disclosing an individual’s personal information on the internet without their consent, with the aim of shaming, embarrassing, or singling them out.

Willis is a person of African descent. Derogatory and racist comments were posted on the same website, along with personal information about her family and Willis herself. Additionally, an investigator in the district attorney’s office also determined this.

The investigator, Gerald Walsh, wrote that the website has declined to remove any of the data, which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

“The exposure of both the grand jurors and the District Attorney is irreversible,” Schierbaum wrote.

Typically, the names of jurors in Georgia are publicly disclosed.

There has not been any previous occurrence in Georgia of sealing the identities of jurors or grand jurors in the state.

This week, the names of grand jurors were not listed in a racketeering indictment, which charged activists who oppose a controversial Atlanta police training center.

According to a court order obtained by WABE, the attorney general’s office, which filed that lawsuit in Fulton County, Ga., Requested to have those names kept confidential, pointing to a concern expressed by the jurors about potential “harassment or retaliation.”

Emily Judge Superior Fulton wrote in the original indictment, “The names of the Grand Jurors are listed as long as the public record does not prevent the redaction of the names of the Grand Jurors, as governed by the laws of Georgia.”

The sealing order can be extended or revoked by the judge eventually assigned to oversee the case, and it remains valid for a period of 30 days.

“We’re in a new territory, where officials in Georgia are facing a growing problem of staff court and jurors judges harassment, according to Pete Skandalakis, the executive director of Georgia’s Council of Prosecuting Attorneys.”

He says the names of trial jurors have traditionally been public information, at least after a verdict, if not at the onset.

Any members of the jury or potential jurors who are responsible for determining the identification of any spoken or written depictions of any details that could aid individuals in halting the spread of information she is requesting an injunction to prohibit the disclosure of names, it does not appear that she is requesting the judge to officially seal the names, unlike Willis’ motion.

Skandalakis stated in August that transparency is a bedrock of Georgia’s justice system, and it may be worth considering mechanisms to protect jurors in specific cases, whether it’s for the courts or the legislature.

Skandalakis stated, “If something poses a threat or discourages people from engaging, it will have an effect on all of us as members of society. It is important for us to ensure that individuals are willing to contribute.”