Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Facebook Government Privacy Social Networks The Courts Your Rights Online

Lawyers Using Facebook Research For Jury Selection 283

Posted by CmdrTaco
from the don't-poke-me-yer-honor dept.
unassimilatible writes "Trial lawyers are increasingly using social networking sites like Facebook to research jurors in real-time during the voir dire process. Armando Villalobos, the district attorney of Cameron County, Brownsville, Texas, last year equipped his prosecutors with iPads to scan the Web during jury selection. But what of the jurors who have their privacy settings restricted to 'friends only?' Mr. Villalobos has thought of a potential workaround: granting members of the jury pool free access to the court's wi-fi network in exchange for temporarily 'friending' his office. Faustian bargain, or another way to get out of jury duty?"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Lawyers Using Facebook Research For Jury Selection

Comments Filter:
  • by DynamoJoe (879038) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:12PM (#35280114)
    Friend their office? Hahahah, no. If that excludes me from jury duty, so be it.
    • by mwvdlee (775178)

      If a juror is smart enough to set his Facebook profile to "friends only", he's probably smart enough to be a juror.

      • by cruff (171569) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:40PM (#35280486)

        That assumes they want smart jurors that can reason independently, though that was actually the case when I served on a medical malpractice trial many years ago. For another drunk driving trial, I and several other prospective jurors were eliminated by the defense because we were in jobs that required close attention to details, and it appeared they were possibly trying to argue in some fashion about blood alchohol level limits.

        • re eliminated by the defense because we were in jobs that required close attention to details,

          those prosecutor should be fired, as they are working against the citizen, sadly they will probably be promoted.

          • They aren't working for the 'citizen' (I assume you mean the one being charged)

              in that position, the responsibility of the prosecutor is to represent the values of the community AGAINST the value/decision of the individual.

            in a tribe of 10 people, you work stuff out via conversation and with the possibility of expulsion (shunning)

            in a tribe of millions, you have a DA who does his best to see the one person at loggerheads is punished.

            • you can do your best without piping the dice, since if you have a good case the conviction should be evident.
              The goal of the prosecutor should not be a conviction at any price, it should be justice, and justice is not serve by selecting dimwits to serve on trial.

              • by vux984 (928602)

                The goal of the prosecutor should not be a conviction at any price, it should be justice, and justice is not serve by selecting dimwits to serve on trial.

                Right, but in the case mentioned the intelligent people were eliminated by the defense.

      • by ZipK (1051658)
        I'm guessing you haven't been on too many juries. Let me fix that for you:

        If a juror is smart enough to set his Facebook profile to "friends only", he's probably smart enough not to be a juror.
      • If a juror is smart enough to set his Facebook profile to "friends only", he's probably too smart to be a juror.

        Fixed that for you.

      • If a juror is smart enough to set his Facebook profile to "friends only", he's probably smart enough to be a juror.

        If he's smart enough to be a juror, he's probably gonna get struck.

    • If I wanted to get out of jury duty, I'd just give them my slashdot ID (which I also use on Fark, Reason and Volokh). That should provide both the prosecution and defense plenty of reasons to excuse me. That or my stubborn refusal to answer questions without legal representation present.

      Although, I have no objection to jury duty as long as the trial doesn't last more than a week or so.

    • free access to the court's wi-fi network in exchange for temporarily "friending" his office

      It isn't his wifi network, it belongs to the courts...how is he authorized to give people access to it?

      • by Imrik (148191)

        Since it specifies that the access is free, I'd guess it means that the court's wi-fi is available to anyone for a fee and his office will pay their fee in exchange for friending.

        • And the first question the other side should ask in jury selection is "Has anyone from either side given you goods or services for free that would normally cost people money?"
    • If I were the lawyer I'd only choose people who refused the bargain. Especially if the case was about privacy rights.

      But really, should I even be on facebook anymore? What if one of my friends feels the need to expose my information to the courts the next time they land in a jury pool. Would I even know about it, I don't think Facebook makes it all that clear who my "friends" are friending.

      I probably won't drop my facebook account though, because as a marketing vehicle I find facebook to be useful. But it's

  • by sideslash (1865434) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:12PM (#35280116)
    If an outside law firm established some kind of quid-pro-quo relationship with jury members I have a feeling any such arrangement would be smacked down by a presiding judge. I can't imagine they will allow this to go forward with the district attorney. The jury should be impartial, and not have any appearance of favoritism of one side over the other. "Friend" the prosecution? I don't think so!
    • Can an attorney for the defense offer $10 to become Facebook 'Friends'? Can a potential juror sell it to the highest bidder? Or both??
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Vintermann (400722)

      You expect sense from the court system. That went out the window long ago - at least by the time they started letting prosecution and defense haggle over who should sit on a jury.

      Jurors should be selected by lot, and reach their verdict by majority vote, not "consensus". People who think the current circus gives them a better shot at justice, should learn basic probability theory and look up Condorcet's jury theorem.

      • Seriously? Majority over consensus? I'd rather take the risk that *1* juror holds out than the risk that 1 person can convince about half of the remainder that they should get their asses out of there by proclaiming me guilty.
        • If it's done by majority vote instead of "consensus", they won't need to worry about sitting there till they rot. They'll just call the vote and be done with it. In that less threatening situation, there's less room for aggressive "persuasion" of other jury members.

          The demand for "consensus" does not help you. All it does is empower the persistent and headstrong at the expense of the careful and thoughtful. It ruins what's a jury's real strength: its diversity.

          If you knew Condorcet's jury theorem, you'd kno

          • by Imrik (148191)

            Majority vote for not guilty or civil cases would be reasonable, for a guilty vote in a criminal trial however a consensus should be required. The burden of proof being that no reasonable person would doubt their guilt, if anyone on the jury does doubt it, they should either be found not guilty or the case retried after a hung jury.

          • by DavidTC (10147)

            Indeed, that's how I feel. The current system means we, or at least the prosecution, has to carefully weed out crazy people, because one crazy person blows it up.

            If instead we had 12 people but required just 10 to convinct, or, hell, added 6 more people, had 18 people, required 14 to convict, we'd probably end up a lot better.

            And the _only_ people who should get weeded out are people with a demonstrable interest in the outcome of the trial, or who have actual other conflicts of interest.

            We'd also end up

      • by amicusNYCL (1538833) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:45PM (#35280552)

        Jurors should be selected by lot, and reach their verdict by majority vote, not "consensus".

        That's a terrible idea if your goal is to have the jury reach the "correct" verdict. When everyone has to agree the chances are much higher that the result will be more accurate. I was on a jury where we started out around 50%/50% after closing arguments, and it took quite a bit of discussion to get everyone to understand what was said, what the evidence was, and what our instructions were. There were several people who thought the guy was guilty because he wasn't a very likable guy, but it turns out that the combination of the evidence, the timeline presented by the prosecution, and most importantly our instructions from the judge forced a verdict of not guilty. If we had voted on it at the start, that guy would be in jail now.

      • by AndersOSU (873247)

        Maybe in theory, where all the jurors are rational actors who carefully weigh the evidence.

        In reality, where things like race play a major part in jury votes, you're asking for majoritarian tyranny.

  • by Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:13PM (#35280132) Homepage

    The Jurors aren't on trial and the Attornies shouldn't be able to do anything other than ask specific questions at Voir Dire as they've always done. This is a highly questionable practice they're taking on.

    • by Sockatume (732728)

      Especially quesitonable is giving jurors access to court wi-fi in exchange for participation. The jurors are hardly going to be neutral to that nice man who gave them web access during the boring selection thingie.

      • If we really want to make sure that we never get re-elected, we could do something crazy like making sure that forensics labs are independent entities, equally accessible to the prosecution and the defense, rather than the (quite common; but not universal) model of their being appendages of the police force...
      • by kabloom (755503)

        Yeah, I think that jurors who want to ensure a fair trial should answer the first question (whether they might have potential bias because they know one of the parties or witnesses) by pointing out that the lawyer is making this offer, and let the judge sort it out.

  • by TheMidget (512188) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:16PM (#35280164)

    granting members of the jury pool free access to the court's wi-fi network in exchange for temporarily "friending" his office

    Or, more easily, just offer the entire jury pool free access to the court's wi-fi network, and then firesheep their accounts...

    • by idontgno (624372)

      TBH, that's where I thought the sentence that starts "Mr. Villalobos has thought of a potential workaround: granting members of the jury pool free access to the court's wi-fi network..." was going.

      I suppose that's a bit too far on the "OMG h@x0rz" paranoia. Still, I have to agree with other posters... unless the facebook info is made available to the defense during the jury vetting process, this smacks of improper and unbalanced quid pro quo.

  • You can still restrict comments/information to specific people or everyone but specific people, so I fail to see how this is a good idea. Why not create jobs with your gobs of money by hiring some kind of journalist roles to jury selection that are authorized to follow jurors around? Then after a day of that say, "friend us on Facebook if you don't want this pesky underling following you around." Or better yet, just pay Facebook to have administrative rights to review an user's data.
    • This is for potential jurors during voir dire. They won't have time to go to their FB page and edit settings. The prosecutors don't get to stay 'Friends' during the trial so who 'follows around jurors' will lose their jobs.
      • The prosecutors don't get to stay 'Friends' during the trial so who 'follows around jurors' will lose their jobs.

        s/b The prosecutors don't get to stay 'Friends' during the trial so no-one who 'follows around jurors' will lose their jobs.

      • by Talderas (1212466)

        Chicken and egg. In order to grant wifi accesss, the potential juror must allow the public prosecutor's office to be friends. However, the juror must have access to the account in order to approve any friend requests. Thus the juror could, when accessing the account to allow the friend, change their privacy settings.

        • Chicken and egg. In order to grant wifi accesss, the potential juror must allow the public prosecutor's office to be friends. However, the juror must have access to the account in order to approve any friend requests. Thus the juror could, when accessing the account to allow the friend, change their privacy settings.

          <Artie Johnson>Very interesting.

          You're absolutely right. Who brings their laptop to court anyway? Would they protest that you were taking notes? Some may have a tablet at this point, but wouldn't most be using their phones anyway?

      • by Manfre (631065)

        I have my account set up so that by default everything is restricted, except to pre-configured groups. If I don't add a "friend" to one of the privileged groups, they don't get to see much.

  • Is it really that hard to set your information to "friends only" or even "friends of friends"? Unless you hang out with lot of lawyers (I have a couple in my friends list), how much information can they actually gleen from "This person only shares certain information with friends".

    I have jury duty on March 10. We'll see how well that goes for them.

    • by hedwards (940851)

      When I did my jury duty a couple years back, they didn't ask anything about social networking sites in particular, they did ask if there were any reasons or connections that might lead me to be partial. And they asked in several different ways about things which might reasonably related.

      This seems to be unnecessary though.

  • by ak_hepcat (468765) <leif@den[ ].net ['ali' in gap]> on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:17PM (#35280190) Homepage Journal

    But I do know that they're watching twitter.

    I sent out a tweet, during one my last jury selection, at lunchtime, that we were in the middle of jury selection.

    no specifics, just a "we're at this point in the process"

    After lunch, I was called into the chambers and dismissed, because they had seen my tweet and were afraid that I might
    engage in "too much" social media and release too much information.

    I was surprised that showed up on court that quickly, actually. I don't know how they found it, but I assume
    that they're performing near constant searches using jurors names.

  • why? (Score:5, Funny)

    by uncanny (954868) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:21PM (#35280244)
    I dont understand why they are using and Egyptian newborn to help with this! What does she even know about the legal system?
  • by PPH (736903) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:22PM (#35280260)

    granting members of the jury pool free access to the court's wi-fi network in exchange for temporarily "friending" his office.

    So what if I don't have a Facebook account? Will I be automatically disqualified from serving on the jury?

    • by Ironhandx (1762146) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:32PM (#35280402)

      I know at least some employers are now taking the slant that if you don't have a Facebook account you automatically either "have something to hide" or "are anti-social to the extreme". I'm neither of those, but am honestly too busy to check a stupid web site 3-4x a day.

      I had a facebook account but had people getting pissy with me because I wasn't checking it often enough, so now I no longer have one.

      Maybe this will get me out of jury duty as well as helping me avoid pretentious asshole bosses that I wouldn't want to work for anyways some day too? One can always hope.

      • by Lumpy (12016) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:53PM (#35280634) Homepage

        "I know at least some employers are now taking the slant that if you don't have a Facebook account you automatically either "have something to hide" or "are anti-social to the extreme". "

        and only a fool would work there. Honestly, are you about to be killed or thrown into debtors prison? I'd rather flip burgers than work for raging assholes at a company that would do that.

      • by vlm (69642)

        I know at least some employers are now taking the slant that if you don't have a Facebook account you automatically either "have something to hide" or "are anti-social to the extreme".

        Sounds either urban legend-ish or astroturfy. I looked at your posting history and you don't seem astroturfy. So that leaves urban legend. Kind of like everyone has heard of someone whom got a job on monster.com, got a job thru linked in, got married from online dating, and now can't get hired without facebook. Uh huh...

        • Its sadly not urban legend. It happened to me a few years ago, I specifically found out because it was a management position at an electronics store. Being a geek I had things in common with some of the staff there and befriended one that had been working there for quite some time and he informed me of what had happened, it was just conversation at the time, I was already in a better job, though it was working more outside of my experience at that time.

          The Manager there at the time was looking for a replace

        • by russotto (537200)

          I got a job through LinkedIn, so that's one out of four.

          As for jury duty, there's no way they'd pick me, even though I have a Facebook account. Because I won't be their tool. If the purpose of the jury is to ratify the decision of the judge, they don't need one. If it's (as one prosecutor told unselected jurors in a pool I was in) to provide a random factor to scare the defendant into pleading when the prosecutor's case is weak, they shouldn't have one. If I were to end up in the jury room, I would not

      • by PPH (736903)

        I know at least some employers are now taking the slant that if you don't have a Facebook account you automatically either "have something to hide" or "are anti-social to the extreme".

        What about: Restrict my networking activity to very exclusive circles. If someone can't find me online, they probably aren't worthy of my services.

    • by nospam007 (722110) *

      No you are qualified. FB account holders will not survive if they are prevented from updating their status for days or weeks.

  • I don't have a Facebook account--nor do I have a Myspace page, LinkedIn profile, or any other social networking connection. I don't even show up in the Google results for my real name until somewhere around the 20th page of results. This is yet another occasion where I'm glad I don't have those potential huge liabilities hanging around my neck, but I have to wonder: would an attorney consider this kind of non-presence a desirable characteristic, or a non-desirable one?

    • but I have to wonder: would an attorney consider this kind of non-presence a desirable characteristic, or a non-desirable one?

      Non-desirable... if they can't pre-emptively read your demographic, how can they determine if you're likely to convict/exonerate the guy they have on trial?

  • That would be called jury tampering were the defense to do it.

  • Isn't this illegal? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by shuz (706678) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:28PM (#35280350) Homepage Journal
    Let's say I am a juror candidate and at any point in the process a representative from one side of the court were to approach me and says "here is 100,000 dollars, if you become a juror the money is yours if you show favor for my client". Isn't this illegal? What is the different between X amount of money, a wrist watch, a service provided, or free wifi? The answer is nothing in the sense that it is all bribery. If I were a judge make it be known that I would treat this offense to the fullest of my powers.
    • by MagicM (85041)

      They're not asking you to favor their client in exchange for free wi-fi.
      They're asking to be able to investigate whether you're likely to favor their client in exchange for free wi-fi.

  • I'm going to set up a Facebook page with a status permanently set to "I can spot a guilty person a mile away!"

    That will get me out of jury duty for now... until Facebook is made irrelevant or goes under.

    • by JamesP (688957)

      Just like the 'Jury Nullification' page, it's pretty much a 'get out of jury free' card for ever

    • I'm going to set up a Facebook page with a status permanently set to "I can spot a guilty person a mile away!"

      That will get me out of jury duty for now... until Facebook is made irrelevant or goes under.

      All you need is a college degree better than an Associate to get struck from the pool in most cases.

  • I guess having a Facebook account makes you a more important person in the eyes of this DA...

    As others have pointed out, I can't possibly believe that this kind of interaction between DA and potential jurors could be anything but harmful to the DA's court case. It seems like yet another avenue for a defendant's lawyer to as for a mistrial and/or appeal.

  • by dirk (87083) <dirk@one.net> on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:33PM (#35280416) Homepage

    I don't have any real issue with checking them out on Facebook, or even getting them to friend you if they are dumb enough to do that. I think the line is clearly being crossed by offering them something (in this case internet access) for friending the prosecutor. It sets up a clear divide in the jury pool, as people who have open profiles and those who don't want to allow the prosecutor access don't get internet access. It also puts the defender at a disadvantage, since they obviously now have to offer them something to get the same access.

    To me FB is like public records. It is out in the public and if you can see it, then it is fair game. But basically bribing the people to give you access crosses the line.

  • Just say no, and remind then that they can't access your email, or your home either.

  • by ka9dgx (72702) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:35PM (#35280430) Homepage Journal

    We may be a bit different here in Indiana, but we don't let the defendants know our names here. The judge was pretty careful about instructing us during the selection process. How could a jury possibly return a guilty verdict in a murder trial if the defendant knew their names and could then extract revenge?

    This is just nuts!

  • by Fujisawa Sensei (207127) on Tuesday February 22, 2011 @12:38PM (#35280472) Journal

    Thinking about it, if a lawyer for either side were to ask to friend me or something else, I would immediately tell the judge that I needed to be excluded because I've become prejudiced against that side.

    And I would be telling the truth.

  • ...just mention jury nullification. Prosecutors hate that shit.
  • Faustian bargain, or another way to get out of jury duty?

    Oh yes, because you know we all want to get out of jury duty. No participation in what the government does for me, thanks! Let 'em do whatever they want!

  • The prosecution bribes potential jurors in exchange for information on their background? There has to be something illegal about that.

  • ...or maybe I turn on the wifi tethering on my unlimited data plan on my phone for everybody to use and carry a couple backup batteries. Being a Texan, I know the courts are corrupt, but... really?
  • 1. jury selection should be done by lot, not hand-picking jurors like drawing a poker hand.
    2. so I don't have a facebook account, I guess that makes me some sort of dangerous privacy advocate conspiracy theorist?
    3. have you seen [google.com] what facebook users get into? Heck, having an account ought to disqualify you for being an advocate for the overthrow of the gubbamint.
  • I've never really understood the process of jury selection.

    I know the theory is that you 'weed' out people who might have biases... but in the end... is not the process of selecting juries creating another bias.

    Better we just stick to true randomness. A random selection of people. Maybe have them at most pass a basic literacy/logic test. Then aim for 80% agreement or something to knock off the oddballs.

  • Lets see. Faust got in a exchange for his immortal soul: Satan himself as his servant.

    A facebook befriending gets you a shared wifi hotspot.

    Somehow I don't think this will make as good a story.

    Probably also at the end God will slap you.

    • For this to be a Faustian bargain, I expect that after the trial is concluded people will be finding body parts from jurors all over the courtyard and throughout the courtroom. Goethe didn't describe a particularly pleasant scene at the end there.
  • So instead of having to forge access, I'm simply given it? Wonder how many facebook IDs I can snoop while waiting for jury selection?

    Hmm... wonder if the DA does any online banking?

  • The point of voir dire is to discover if the potential jurors are predisposed in some fashion (e.g. is a strong advocate of drug use, and it's a drug trial).

    If someone has posted repeatedly on the topic (or the person) of the defandant or some of the witnesses in a semi-public forum, shouldn't that be fair game?

    Facebook isn't like inviting people into your home, it's somewhere between the newspaper and the watercooler.

    Perhaps it's "in scope" or not; obviously someone has to try it, and then the judges have

"I got everybody to pay up front...then I blew up their planet." "Now why didn't I think of that?" -- Post Bros. Comics

Working...