Judge Seals Names of Jurors in Motel Six Slaying Trial

Judge Seals Names of Jurors in Motel Six Slaying Trial

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Names of jury members that convicted a man of first-degree murder have been sealed at their request by a judge.

Jurors in the trial of David Valken-Leduc sought anonymity after the conviction, saying they were frightened by testimony about gang activity and a possible "hit" on police officers.

It is believed to be the first time a judge has sealed the names of jurors based on a confidentiality rule enacted three years ago by the Utah Judicial Council, The Salt Lake Tribune reported Wednesday.

Valken-Leduc was convicted Jan. 29 in the 1996 shooting death of Matthew John Whicker, 30, a Motel 6 night clerk in Woods Cross. He is scheduled to be sentenced Monday.

Second District Judge Glen Dawson found the jury's fear of retribution outweighed any interest in making the names public.

Dawson sealed the list after consulting in-chambers with prosecutors and defense attorneys and seven of the eight jury members.

The jury foreman, the only man on the jury, asserted there was "a reasonable concern for safety, of retribution. To err on the side of caution, I would appreciate it."

Female members of the jury agreed, according to a transcript of the discussion obtained by the newspaper.

"I'm expecting a child. Little scary," one woman said.

"I have the same concerns and, possibly because of being a woman, I feel like I couldn't defend myself very well if there was any attacks made," another woman said.

Another juror said, "I have a family and think it better that our names aren't out there for public access."

The rule anticipates that the names of jurors will be made available to the news media and public following a trial.

But if a juror requests otherwise, the judge must weigh the jury's privacy interests against those favoring public access. The rule also allows a judge to delay release of a jury list for up to five business days.

Several judges have used the rule to delay release of the jurors' names, most recently following the Cache County murder trial of Cody Lynn Nielsen.

Tim Shea, senior attorney for Utah's Administrative Office of Courts, who drafted the rule, said Tuesday he believed that Dawson was the first judge to use the rule to seal a jury list.

(Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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