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Impact of Sequestration on Juries

NCJ Number
Judicature Volume: 79 Issue: 5 Dated: (March-April 1996) Pages: 266-272
J P Levine
Date Published
7 pages
Although intended to shield the jury and ensure a fair trial, sequestration's potential for unnerving and even infuriating jurors may undermine the pursuit of justice.
The negative impacts of sequestration normally outweigh its virtues, particularly given its costs for both the state and the jurors. New York's former policy of requiring sequestration in all criminal cases cost approximately $4 million annually. Abolishing mandatory sequestration in New York freed up funds that will help defray the cost of recent legislation that raised jurors' compensation. Although sequestration may foster a bonding among jurors that facilitates communication in deliberations, it also may create a context for the development of cliques based on common juror characteristics. Further, sequestration compounds the stress of a trial. Jurors who resent the experience of sequestration and are disturbed by it may vent their wrath on one of the trial adversaries. Also, those unduly upset by their ordeal may capitulate to the will of the majority in hopes of speeding up a verdict. It has also been suggested that sequestration can improperly favor the prosecution due to the continuous interaction between jurors and court officers, who are generally perceived to be affiliated with the law enforcement system. On balance, sequestration seems to undermine the pursuit of justice. 38 footnotes