A judge denied a newspaper’s request for jurors’ names in the case of a truck driver who was acquitted of all counts for the deaths of seven motorcyclists, saying Thursday that the panel endured harsh criticism from many, including the governor, and feared for their safety.
The Boston Globe sought the names following the August 2022 trial of Volodymyr Zhukovskyy. The jury acquitted him of causing the deaths in a head-on collision in New Hampshire in 2019 that exposed fatal flaws in the process for revoking licenses across states.
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu and Attorney General John Formella criticized the verdict. Sununu said he shared in the “shock, outrage, and anger that so many have expressed" since the crash.
“The Fallen Seven did not receive justice today, and that is an absolute tragedy,” he said, referring to the victims.
Get Boston local news, weather forecasts, lifestyle and entertainment stories to your inbox. Sign up for NBC Boston’s newsletters.
The jury deliberated for less than three hours after a two-week trial during which prosecutors argued that Zhukovskyy — who had taken heroin, fentanyl and cocaine earlier on the day of the crash — repeatedly swerved back and forth before the collision, and told police he caused it. But a judge dismissed eight charges related to whether he was impaired, and his attorneys blamed the lead biker, saying he was drunk and didn't look where he was going when he lost control of his motorcycle and slid in front of Zhukovskyy’s truck.
The Globe argued that the list of jurors' names and addresses is a court document, and therefore, there's a presumption that it be available to the public.
The newspaper also argued that having access to the list would give the public an insight into the trial, the judicial system, and post-trial comments about the verdict from jurors willing to speak with a reporter. The Globe also said it would honor any juror's request for anonymity.
A lawyer appointed by Coos County Superior Court Judge Peter Bornstein to represent the 12 jurors and five alternates contacted all of them. The group said they did not want to speak to the Globe or to any other media, citing concerns over their safety and privacy.
One juror “was so concerned for his/her safety that the juror felt the need to carry a pistol for personal protection,” Bornstein wrote. Another shut down their social media accounts.
“The jurors in this case endured bad press and harsh (and sometimes vitriolic) criticism from multiple sources,” Bornstein wrote, in a world “with a pervasive and potentially hostile social media culture.”
He added, “Although New Hampshire protects the public's right of access to court records, it also protects an individual's right to privacy.”
The Globe has not yet decided whether to appeal, their lawyer said.
It wasn't immediately known if there have been other New Hampshire cases where jury names were released post-trial. Jurors' names and addresses are derived from juror questionnaires, which are confidential, Bornstein noted.