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Trump jurors can now reveal their identities. It's a risk, but may benefit the public

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Here's a quote. You were engaged in a very stressful and difficult task - some parting words from Judge Juan Merchan thanking the jury of 12 New Yorkers, seven men and five women plus the alternates, for their service in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial. Now they've delivered their historic guilty verdict and can return to their regular lives. So as a classic song once asked, is that all there is? Now that it's all over, will the jurors reveal their identities, get exposed by someone else or just fade back into the fabric of civilian life? And if they speak, what might they say? Social psychologist Julie Blackman has often explored these questions in her work on high-profile criminal cases - good to have you here, Julie.

JULIE BLACKMAN: Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

SHAPIRO: These jurors were not sequestered during the six-week trial, but their transition back to normal life is undoubtedly going to take time. What can you tell us about what these 12 people are likely going through right now?

BLACKMAN: The transition back has got to be substantial, Ari, especially to the extent that they kept themselves separate from information. They were instructed by the court at the beginning of the trial, and throughout the trial, they were regularly instructed to stay off the internet, to avoid any information that's relevant to the trial at hand. And so one of the things you would expect they would be doing at this point, assuming that they'd followed that instruction, is checking to see what was happening during the course of the trial to try to reestablish themselves in a sense and in the world of news about this case.

SHAPIRO: If one or more of these 12 people were to approach you and say, I'm torn; should I disclose my participation in this trial or not, what would you advise them?

BLACKMAN: It's a hard question. I mean, in some respects, I'm very eager to hear from the jurors, in particular because Trump has derided the process. He's talked about it as rigged. And the ultimate proof that it was not is hearing from jurors who say, I was there. I was in the room, and I'm willing to kind of pierce the black box of juror deliberations to describe our process and to say that we were fair. We were mindful of the evidence. We asked questions that demonstrated that. Our process in the jury room was consistent with all that. And what Judge Merchan said to them at the end was - he said, no one can make you do anything that you don't want to do. The choice is yours. And I would actually expect that during this time just after trial - that one of the things that's happening for these jurors is a kind of weighing of whether or not it makes sense for them to come forward.

SHAPIRO: People associated with the criminal and civil trials of Donald Trump, from court officials to witnesses, have been doxxed pretty often. What are the chances that somebody is going to be either exposed against their will or choose to step forward and then face an onslaught of harassment online or in real life?

BLACKMAN: Yeah. I think people will not be exposed against their will. I mean, I think that the attorneys understand their obligation to keep the jurors' names private. They did have access. They had their names. No one else did, but the trial teams did. If jurors choose to come forward, I think that one of the things they're going to have to reckon with is a likelihood that they will be doxxed or that there'll be other harassing events that occur.

And it's already the case that people who have been participants in trials have been heavily doxxed. I actually have an article coming out in a journal called The Champion where my co-author, Dawn Hughes, talks about having testified at the trial between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. She testified as an expert witness for Amber Heard and was crazily doxxed by Johnny Depp followers to the point where she really had to reach out to the FBI for some protection while she was a witness at the trial. So we know that trial participants are vulnerable. And, of course, that's frightening for democracy and for the protection of the justice system.

SHAPIRO: If you had a chance to speak to one of these jurors, what's the question that you most would like answered?

BLACKMAN: Oh, what a good question. I mean, I think I would most want to hear about how deliberations began. What was the idea that first rose to the surface where people attached themselves to that idea revealed some measure of agreement with that idea and deliberations began? And, you know, of course, when attorneys are giving summations, you want to know when you've given a summation, do your ideas carry over into the jury room? Do they dominate deliberations, and if so, how?

SHAPIRO: Serving on a jury is always a form of public service, whether it's a day or a month, high-profile or low-profile. But how would you describe the sacrifice that people make, the service that people give to be part of a jury like this?

BLACKMAN: You know, second to military service, there's nothing more we ask of our fellow citizens than jury service and to be willing to serve in this trial at this time with sort of knowledge of things like doxxing and to be grateful that we have the kind of system where people will do that. And Judge Merchan actually did an unusual thing at the beginning of jury selection, which is he said to the assembled group, if there's anyone here who doesn't want to serve, raise your hand, you know, for any reason at all. And that cleared about half the room.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

BLACKMAN: And that's an unusual way to begin jury selection. Usually the process is more individual, and each person is talked to separately. Here they were addressed as a group. Half of them left, and the remainder - they were the people who were prepared to take this on, who were prepared to sort of act on behalf of our country, of the state and show up in court every day on time and were prepared to take the risks that they surely knew attended this process and deliver a verdict. And that's brave and noble and so important to our democracy.

SHAPIRO: Julie Blackman is a social psychologist who has worked as a trial strategy consultant on many high-profile criminal cases. Thank you for talking with us today.

BLACKMAN: My pleasure.

(SOUNDBITE OF CITY OF THE SUN'S "THOSE DAYS ARE NOW") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Kathryn Fink
Kathryn Fink is a producer with NPR's All Things Considered.
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.