- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 5, 2006

Closing arguments are expected today in a gang-related racketeering and drug-trafficking case in the District in which the judge took the unusual step of appointing an anonymous jury.

Prosecutors say they want the names of the jurors to remain secret because the gang has tried to tamper with the judicial system, including impersonating a law-enforcement officer to kill a cooperating witness.

Gerald Eiland and Frederick Miller are among several men accused of running a drug organization and car-theft ring based in the District. They have pleaded not guilty.

Before the trial, U.S. District Judge Royce C. Lamberth sided with prosecutors seeking the anonymous jury, citing “strong reason to believe that the jury needs protection.” The trial began in October.

Defense attorneys have opposed the idea of an anonymous jury, calling the move unnecessary and prejudicial.

Keeping jurors’ identities secret “erodes the presumption of innocence,” defense attorney John Carney wrote in a court memo to Judge Lamberth.

Anonymous juries were used in the District in the trials of drug kingpins Kevin Gray and Tommy Edelin.

David McCord, executive director of the National Jury Center at the American Judicature Society, said such juries in federal courts are a “relatively new phenomenon,” dating to 1977.

Supporters say it’s an acceptable practice in high-profile cases or when there are concerns about jurors being threatened or bribed.

“One of the things defendants worry about is since it’s so out of the ordinary, jurors will think the defendants are particularly dangerous and they’ll have a prejudice against them,” Mr. McCord said.

The trial is taking place amid tightened security. Those in attendance must undergo the usual security screening at the door of the courthouse, and must repeat the process when they enter the courtroom.

The case has been separated into two groups of defendants. In an earlier trial, Corey Moore, the so-called “Teflon defendant,” was acquitted.

Mr. Moore has been tried multiple times on murder charges, but in each case the charges were either dismissed or he was found not guilty by a jury.

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