Acting on a petition from about a dozen media organizations, a Montgomery County judge on Friday unsealed the identities of the jurors who convicted Bill Cosby, but told them to not publicly discuss the deliberations that led to their decision last month.
And as reporters fanned out across the county, the panel members seemed eager to oblige the judges. Five jurors or family members reached by the Inquirer and Daily News said they either had no interest in discussing the case or were not ready to do so. Most said they had endured a barrage of interview requests already.
A relative of one of the panel members reportedly took an even firmer stance with a tabloid reporter.
"Get off my property," he said, according to the gossip website RadarOnline.com. "I have a gun!"
That reaction came within hours of Judge Steven T. O'Neill's four-page ruling, which acknowledged that state law gives the media "a qualified First Amendment right to the names of the jurors in this case."
But the judge also expressed a concern – echoed by prosecutors – for the jurors' privacy, adding that he intentionally had delayed releasing the names by 21 days in hope that worldwide media interest in Cosby's case might die down.
"The privacy concerns of the jurors … are of paramount importance to this court," O'Neill wrote.
In seeking the jurors' identities, the media organizations had argued in court that although they were sensitive to those privacy rights, the public also has a right to scrutinize the inner workings of the justice system – especially in a case like Cosby's, which received worldwide attention.
Stan Wischnowski, executive editor and senior vice president of the Inquirer, Daily News, and Philly.com — which were parties to the motion — said having the opportunity to speak to jurors who were willing to talk could "shed more light on how justice was rendered by this jury."
"The public has a right to know who made these momentous decisions," he said.
In his ruling, O'Neill put in writing the same order he gave the jurors before discharging them last month – that they keep secret the details of the 14 hours it took them to convict Cosby on three counts of aggravated indecent assault.
And he issued a stern warning for reporters: "Should a juror indicate that he or she does not wish to be interviewed, any further attempts to obtain an interview may be subject to further action by the court or local law enforcement."
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At a court hearing this month, O'Neill said jurors had been perpetually harassed by reporters since they returned home in late April.
Many jurors reported television news trucks parked on the lawns of their homes, the judge said. One network, in hope of scoring interviews, even booked a room at the DoubleTree Hotel in Plymouth Meeting, where the panel had been sequestered for more than a month.
O'Neill likened the media attention some members of the panel had received to death threats a criminal gang might issue to jurors after an organized crime case, and raised the possibility of filing harassment or trespassing charges against reporters.
Since then, the attention appears not to have waned. As recently as Sunday, O'Neill said in his opinion Friday, a media organization he did not name contacted at least six of the jurors by phone in an attempt to obtain interviews.
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And the judge's release of the names sent reporters flocking once again to jurors' homes or trying to reach them by phone, email, and social media.
The husband of one juror in Ambler said his wife had said little to him about the case and doubted she would have anything more to say to the press.
The panel's forewoman, reached at her home, said she might consider discussing her experience as a juror one day, but doubted she ever would grant an interview on the details of the case.
Her statements came three weeks after she issued a statement that purported to speak on behalf of the full panel of seven men and five women asking for privacy.
Even so, juror Harrison Snyder, 22, of Gilbertsville shared his views on the verdict in an interview that aired that day on Good Morning America.
"Some have said that I made the right decision, and some people have said that they still think [Cosby's] innocent," Snyder said. "I just tell them that if you were there, you would say the same thing – that he's guilty."
The forewoman's statement largely echoed Snyder's views of the case, saying the panel reached its verdict last month after "thoughtful and meticulous consideration" of the evidence.
Staff writers Erin McCarthy and Katie Park contributed to this article.
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