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Social Networks The Courts The Internet

Courts Move To Ban Juror Use of Net, Social Sites 288

Posted by kdawson
from the tell-no-one dept.
coondoggie passes along a NetworkWorld report on the pronouncement of a judicial conference committee recommending that trial judges specifically instruct jurors not to use any electronic communications devices or sites during trial and deliberations. Here's the committee report (PDF). "If you think you're going to use your spanking new iPhone to entertain yourself next time you're on jury duty, think again. Judges are going to take an even dimmer view of jury member use of Blackberry, iPhone, or other electronic devices as a judicial policy-setting group has told district judges they should restrict jurors from using electronic technologies to research or communicate. ... The instructions state jurors must not use cell phones, e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, or communicate through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube."
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Courts Move To Ban Juror Use of Net, Social Sites

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  • Uninformed Jury (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:23AM (#31006856)

    Why do we accept the mind control brainwashing by the powers that be that an IGNORANT and UNINFORMED jury is a good jury? It's only a good jury from the point of view of the system and the prosecution where they control the information flow and where the judge denies informing the jury of their right to nullify the trial.

  • by Dahamma (304068) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:28AM (#31006874)

    I can't imagine call phones or networked computers are allowed for a sequestered jury anyway - but I think "sequestering" a jury is pretty rare - the state has to provide hotel accommodations and food to everyone in the jury, which is really expensive!

    This seems to be about recommending that ALL jurors refrain from accessing these social networks, etc. But I can't see how it's practical outside of the courtroom or deliberation. They can "instruct" the jurors all they want not to go online for the length of the trial, but that's not going to stop too many people...

  • WTF? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by EzInKy (115248) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:30AM (#31006892)


    Specifically, those instruction spell out that jurors should not you should not consult dictionaries or reference materials, search the internet, websites, blogs, or use any other electronic tools to obtain information either before the trial, during deliberations or after until the judge instructs otherwise.

    Okay, maybe if jurors were required to pass some type of basic test that indicates they have a reasonable understanding of basic terms this would make sense, but denying the use of dictionaries makes no sense at all. How in the world is a "normal" person supposed to know when the judge or attorney is trying to pull a fast one when they aren't even allowed to research what is being said?

  • Re:Uninformed Jury (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Mr. Freeman (933986) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @02:33AM (#31006908)
    First, both sides can produce evidence. Second, being uninformed is there to assure an unbiased jury. Third, you do not have the right to nullify a trial, it is illegal to do so. The only reason it works is because it's more illegal to prosecute a jury for the verdict they produce. Not saying that jury nullification is a bad thing, but don't go around thinking that it's completely legal and encouraged.
  • Re:Fine fine fine. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by kramerd (1227006) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @04:57AM (#31007694)

    Serving as a juror is a responsibility as a US citizen, and whatever you get paid for doing so is an honorarium, not a salary. Payments for pain and suffering, on the other hand, are generally settlements for tort liabilites, and the honorarium you receive for completing jury duty is not compensation for completing jury duty. It is so that the normal expenses that you would not otherwise suffer (such as lunch and parking) become a net cost of 0.

    News flash - you don't get paid for voting either.

    If more people who don't use the internet end up being jurors, I assume it will either have no effect or would improve the ability of jurors to listen to the facts of individual cases, as they are supposed to be doing in determining their verdicts. One of the main purposes of a jury is so that outside influences (such as newspapers, television, and internet) are not influential. It would be more like only people who have not determined their personal stance on the death penalty being allowed on a capital case. If only pro death-penalty (your idea is just stupid) people were allowed on a capital case, the defending lawyer would simply be getting a free shot at getting his client off, because a death verdict would be thrown out pretty much automatically on appeal.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by rts008 (812749) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:10AM (#31007744) Journal

    Jurors find this frustrating, but trials do not exist for their entertainment.

    If I had mod points currently you would see a '+* insightful' just for that. Sorry you have to see this comment instead. :-)

    The key word that applies to this is jury duty . Duty...it implies a lot of things, very often not pleasant.

    The present day attitude of lack of personal responsibility and self entitlement is despicable, IMO.

    Except for the fact that this affects everyone, and not just the self-entitled 'not my fault because *insert 'reason' here*' asshats...well I could not care less for their perceived misfortune. Sadly, these asshats attitude and whining affect us all due to their widespread infiltration of our society.

    BTW: good post! I agree with the remainder that I did not address...I was inflamed by the nonsense carried on above your comment:
    afore mentioned asshat [slashdot.org]
    May be a troll, or EPIC FAIL at 'funny' [slashdot.org] toss a coin...
    self-entitled asshat [slashdot.org]
    Knee-jerk...no clue [slashdot.org]
    loves to build strawmen, and delights in showing off with his self-perceived 'superior intellect'*see:"Wrath of Khan"* [slashdot.org]

    GHAAaaaaagh!!!! KHHAAAANNNNNNNnnnn!!!!!!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:34AM (#31007870)

    Not in Texas. In Texas, you are not allowed to take notes, period. You get access to the evidence in deliberation, but you aren't allowed to take notes, even if the case takes days. Personal experience... "You are the most important people in this courtroom." But then the court treats jurors like dirt and don't pay any money, becuase that might "influence" the jury. BS. At least they sorta pay for parking, and a lot of employers in the state will pay you your wage while you are required to be there.

  • by deniable (76198) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:36AM (#31007884)

    Exactly. That's why they give you *gasp* a pen and paper!

    Actually, they don't allow that here unless there are special requirements for the trial. No recording or communications devices and no notes.

  • by A nonymous Coward (7548) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @05:38AM (#31007894)

    I know about the artificial separation of judges deciding law and jurors deciding fact, but forget that for a moment.

    Jurors are presumably supposed to use their judgment to decide the facts -- are the witnesses trustworthy, is their testimony full of inconsistencies, how do different witness's testimonies stack up against each other ...

    But all this REQUIRES that jurors use their own knowledge to some extent. If a witness says something that is obviously wrong to a car mechanic but not an ice cream clerk, that mechanic darned well better tell the other jurors why he thinks the witness is lying. Jurors are expected to NOT drop their real-world knowledge at the door. (I am particularly thinking of My Cousin Vinny, where only a car fanatic would know vital clues about the tire tracks and what kind of car could have made them.)

    Now how is this different from a juror who knows just enough to be wary of something and looks it up (NOT during the trial, but at home, or even during deliberations)? It's all fine and dandy to say that is up to the opposing lawyer to handle, that jurors are not police or investigators, but that is word games. If I knew something before the trial, I am expected to use that knowledge to uncover bad testimony. But if I acquire that knowledge during the trial, I am supposed to pretend I don't know that a witness is lying?

    Maybe a case can be made for looking up a witness's past history, but even then I don't think so. If I knew a witness personally before the trial, knew he had a history of lying, knew he hated the defendant or was jealous of him or was in love with him, whatever kind of influence you can think of, that is part of my knowledge and part of how I decide what is true and what is false. Even if the only reputation they have is from always appearing in newspapers under unsavory conditions, I am not expected to forget all that when evaluating their testimony. And yes, I am ignoring the idea that prior criminal history is not supposed to be part of a defendant's current trial, but I also think that is bunk -- if some guy has been to jail a half dozen times for beating people up, that sure as heck is significant.

    This all stems from olden times when jurors had no way of looking things up, and very little need. But the world is more complicated now, people know more and get around more, and I'd rather be tried by jurors who knew how to look up things for themselves rather than sit around like stupified monkeys.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Cowpat (788193) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @06:54AM (#31008272) Journal

    So provide the jury with a copy of Blacks Legal Dictionary. Or start operating the courts in English so that normal dictionaries are as right as any others.

  • Re:And? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by japhering (564929) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @09:48AM (#31009640)

    The issue is people using the internet to look up information that they have been told they can't use when deliberating.

    Things like the defendants personal wealth, criminal record, information on "evidence" that has been ruled inadmissible or just plain trying to stir up public opinion in an effort to sway the court.

    On the flip side some defendants have tried harassing jurors via their personal electronics or having some one physically show up at a jurors residence or place of work.

    However, given that most juries are not sequestered, this like all the other instructions depend on honesty of the juror and the people they associate with.

    Having been on a non-sequestered jury for a murder trail, it is a pain in the butt to go home after a day in the jury box and not be able to watch the evening news, read the days newspaper,just surf the internet or discuss with your significant other (all things banned by the judge in his instructions).

    How was your day?

    Jury duty all day.

    What type of case?

    Can't tell you.

    How long will it last?

    Can't tell you?

    I'm going to bed, will you watch the news and tell me what the weather will be like tomorrow?

    Sorry, I can't watch the news.

    Well, then look it up on the internet.

    Sorry, I'm not allowed to use the internet.

    Then how are you going to stay caught up at work?

    I won't I'm on jury duty and can't use the internet.

    and on and on and on

  • by kfm2000 (1145175) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:02AM (#31009864)

    Good point. I was thinking that a jury ban on intartube-connected devices was solely to prevent access to this site:

    http://fija.org/ [fija.org] [Fully Informed Jury Association.org]

    Merely reciting the quote on the home page beginning with "The primary function of the independent juror..." will be enough to get you thrown off of most jury panels.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by spartacus_prime (861925) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:28AM (#31010196) Homepage
    That's what the lawyers are for. I'm a 2L, and when we have mock trial competitions, one of the main things we are told to do is explain concepts to the (fake) jury. The judge can try to explain during jury instructions, but it's the job of the attorney during his opening and closing arguments to break down obscure concepts in terms that Joe Sixpack can understand.

    Alternatively, we can do away with the jury system altogether and just have bench trials, but there are probably a good portion of judges who are about as dumb (relatively) as the average juror.

  • by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @10:31AM (#31010246) Journal

    You're not there for the money. You're there because it's part of your civic duty, much like voting. It irritates me how many people duck jury duty over the pay issue. For some people, I can understand it -- if you're working two jobs and still barely making your bills (or not even that much), even a couple of days off can be ruinous. But I know of people who live quite comfortably well into the low six digits who complain about not getting paid for the time.

    I've been called for jury duty about six or seven times in my life. Of those, I've gone through jury selection three times. I've not been selected any of the times, but while waiting for the attorneys to dismiss me, I've heard some extraordinarily lame reasons to be excused. I wanted to smack a few of them, but I figured that might not go over well with the judge. :)

  • by russotto (537200) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @11:01AM (#31010684) Journal

    These rules have been around for centuries. As a juror, your information about the case you're hearing is to come through testimony given in court. This allows for a fair trail, since both sides can attempt to refute the evidence and testimony.

    That's one way of looking at it. Another way of looking at it is that, along with voir dire, it allows the judges and lawyers to control the process and the verdict while providing the veneer of a trial by jury.

  • Re:WTF? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by cbeaudry (706335) on Wednesday February 03, 2010 @12:21PM (#31011986)

    I agree, that there is an extreme in the other direction we dont want to go too.

    But we at least both agree, the system isnt perfect.
    I'm not saying I have the answer, but I am saying something needs to change.

    The fact that the skill of the lawyers weighs so heavily on how high your chances of winning or loosing are, should be a concern, but somehow it isnt.

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