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Ex-Fed Prosecutor Assigned Rare Anonymous Jury in His Murder Trial

By Danny Fenster
ticklethewire.com

Ticklethewire.com has reported preveiously on Paul Bergrin, the “swaggering ex-federal prosecutor … who authorites say became the go-to defense attorney for Newark street gangs.” Bergin “dodged one bullet” in charges of running an escort service of a client of his previously, receiving a sentence of time served.

But now the fed court trying him for allegations of orchestrating a 2004  murder of a witness against  a client of his, has taken the unusual step of selecting an anonymous jury, something only reserved in a mob or major drug trafficking case, reports Reuters. Trial begins Monday in Newark. The judge agreed withhold the names of the jurors.

Though US Attorney General Eric Holder decided not to seek the death penalty against Bergrin, as we’ve written, Bergrin does face life in prison if convicted.

The feds say they have their reasons for an anonymous jury.

Paul Bergrin/photo News12 New Jersey

“During pre-trial proceedings, prosecutors argued that safety and privacy concerns demanded that potential jurors remain anonymous,” reads the Reuters report. U.S. District Judge William Martini agreed to withhold jurors’ names and their employers at an August 30 hearing. Anonymity in such situations is usually granted for a prescribed period of time, the report says, although Judge Martini did not define the length of the juror’s anonymity.

“Part of it is the judge wanting to have the jurors as free of concern for their own personal safety and security as they possibly can be,” said Cornell Law professor Valerie Hans, a specialist in jury issues, told Reuters.

“There are circumstances where the jury names are not released ever, but in most cases fervor and high passion about the case fades rather quickly once the case is over,” said Dick Carelli, spokesman for the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts, according to Reuters.

Bergrin is being charged with orchestrating the murder of a confidential witness in a federal drug case against a client of his. He is representing himself with the help of court-appointed attorney Lawrence Lustberg. Bergrin, who has already pleaded guilty, “has already been severely restricted in his physical movements around the courtroom, and has been threatened with an electric shock if he violates those restrictions,” according to Reuters.

The charges are part of a larger 33-count indictment, including allegations of racketeering and other crimes that make Bergrin “no different than a street gangster,” according to New Jersey US Attorney’s Office press release.

The move for anonymity has some of the defense worried.

“If the jurors know that their names are being kept anonymous, and that it is not the usual practice, then the jurors might sense danger, which works against the interest of the defendant,” said Alan Zegas, a past president of the Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers of New Jersey, and currently of the Law Offices of Alan L. Zegas in Chatham, New Jersey, according to Reuters.

To read more click here.


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