Legal Definition: Sequester
In legal terminology, “Sequester” refers to the action of isolating, segregating, or separating a group of individuals, typically jurors, witnesses, or assets, from external influences and contact during legal proceedings. The purpose of sequestering is to ensure impartiality, prevent external interference, and maintain the integrity of a fair and unbiased legal process, particularly in high-profile or sensitive cases.
Key aspects and components of sequester include:
- Jury Sequestration: One of the most common uses of sequestration is in jury trials. Jurors may be sequestered, meaning they are kept together in a controlled environment, away from their homes and external influences, to prevent any exposure to media coverage or discussions related to the case.
- Witness Sequestration: Witnesses, particularly in cases where their testimony may be crucial or controversial, can be sequestered to prevent them from hearing the testimony of other witnesses and tailoring their own statements accordingly.
- Asset Sequestration: In cases involving financial disputes, assets may be sequestered, which involves taking custody or control of property or funds to prevent their improper use, dissipation, or transfer during legal proceedings.
- Media and Public Sequestration: In high-profile cases, efforts may be made to sequester media coverage and public access to court proceedings to minimize external influences on the case.
The primary goals and purposes of sequestration include:
- Fair Trial: Sequestration is used to ensure that jurors and witnesses are not exposed to external information, opinions, or pressure that could bias their decisions or testimonies, thereby safeguarding the defendant’s right to a fair trial.
- Witness Credibility: Witness sequestration helps maintain the credibility and authenticity of witness testimonies by preventing them from being influenced by the statements of other witnesses during the trial.
- Asset Protection: Asset sequestration is employed to protect assets from being misappropriated, transferred, or depleted during legal disputes, ensuring they remain available for potential judgments or settlements.
- Public Order: In cases of intense public interest or where emotions may run high, sequestration helps maintain public order and prevent disruptions inside and outside the courtroom.
Sequestration orders are typically issued by the presiding judge, who has the discretion to determine when and how sequestration is necessary based on the circumstances of the case. Sequestered individuals may be housed in a hotel or other designated facility, where their movements and interactions are closely monitored to prevent unauthorized communication or exposure to external influences.
It’s important to note that sequestration is not always employed, and its use depends on the specific needs of the case. It is often reserved for high-stakes trials, cases with a significant media presence, or situations where there is a genuine concern about the impartiality of jurors or the credibility of witnesses.
In conclusion, “Sequester” in legal terms refers to the practice of isolating or segregating jurors, witnesses, assets, or media coverage from external influences during legal proceedings. It serves the primary goals of ensuring a fair trial, preserving witness credibility, protecting assets, and maintaining public order. Sequestration is a valuable tool in the legal system to safeguard the integrity and impartiality of legal proceedings, particularly in cases of heightened sensitivity or public interest.