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Federal Judges Wary of Facebook, Twitter Impact On Juries 154

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-farmville-in-the-jury-box dept.
coondoggie writes "The impact of social media such as Twitter, Facebook and Google+ and others on federal juries is a concern that judges are frequently taking steps to curb. According to a study 94% of the 508 federal judges who responded said they have specifically barred jurors from any case-connected use of social media."
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Federal Judges Wary of Facebook, Twitter Impact On Juries

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  • by ganjadude (952775) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:18PM (#38821135) Homepage
    to start crowdsourcing juries, I mean why bother having 12 people show up ina room when you got half the country saying hes guilty before the trial starts on facebook!
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Yes! In fact, let's give Nancy Grace sovereign power over each human to decide if they should live or die right now!

      • by FrYGuY101 (770432) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @04:02PM (#38821619) Journal

        Yes! In fact, let's give Nancy Grace sovereign power over each human to decide if they should live or die right now!

        I think you have that backwards... we should give every human sovereign power to decide if Nancy Grace should live or die right now...

        • by Darinbob (1142669) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @05:57PM (#38822879)

          No, because then we'd have to vote, and it would take months to count up them all up.

          But actually, Nancy Grace is one of those people that just makes me mad thinking about it. She symbolizes what's completely broken with CNN Headline News by being a loud obnoxious talking head that prattles on endlessly about unimportant stuff. She also symbolizes what's completely broken about prosecutors: everyone is assumed guilty by default and it's more important to keep the public outraged or frightened than to get at the truth. The only good thing about Nancy Grace is that she's no longer a practicing prosecutor.

          It's CNN damn it, I want to see NEWS when I switch the channel to HEADLINE NEWS not some hysteria about Caylee.

          • by Ihmhi (1206036)

            No, because then we'd have to vote, and it would take months to count up them all up.

            But actually, Nancy Grace is one of those people that just makes me mad thinking about it. She symbolizes what's completely broken with CNN Headline News by being a loud obnoxious talking head that prattles on endlessly about unimportant stuff. She also symbolizes what's completely broken about prosecutors: everyone is assumed guilty by default and it's more important to keep the public outraged or frightened than to get at the truth. The only good thing about Nancy Grace is that she's no longer a practicing prosecutor.

            It's CNN damn it, I want to see NEWS when I switch the channel to HEADLINE NEWS not some hysteria about Caylee.

            It's worse than that. I would wager a hefty sum that every single one of those sensationalistic "journalists" knows that they're being specious and disingenuous all the time and taking everything way over the top. They realized it was way, way more profitable than being a responsible journalist, and they willingly decided to go through with it and continue doing it.

  • Or better yet, hangman on your iPhone with the cute guy/gal sitting next to you in the jury box.
    Better than Facebook anyway!

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:25PM (#38821205)

    IMO rules about this sort of thing fall into the category of "people really shouldn't need to be told".

    When you participate on a jury, you are prohibited from communicating anything related to the case with anybody outside of the jury deliberation chambers. End of story. Whether you communicate the information face-to-face, via e-mail, or through Facebook or Twitter really shouldn't matter.

    But of course there are idiots throughout society, so multiple, redundant rules need to be enacted to try and prevent problems.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      But of course there are idiots throughout society, so multiple, redundant rules need to be enacted to try and prevent problems.

      They're especially common on juries. All the smart people I knew get kicked out by the lawyers who want to be the ones in control.

      • by icebike (68054) *

        In my experience, the smart ones are the least likely to try to avoid Jury duty, and the ones
        who are merely smart-asses, are the most likely to do so.

        I've sat thru a lot of jury voir dire processes, and have never seen people excused for being merely intelligent, educated, or well read.
        I've seen news junkies dismissed simply because they had too much prior knowledge of the case, and have been dismissed myself for
        being personal friends with the lawyers involved.

        The TV/Movie drama of jury consultants carefull

    • by icebike (68054) *

      Exactly.

      I see no reason for special rules, (and a lot of danger in allowing special rules) for electronic devices or social media.

      The prohibition of talking about the trial should be enough. If you can't convince a jury to adhere to that rule you have no hope of making any device or social rules stick either. More rules are not the answer.

      Given the current reactionary trend, it wouldn't surprise me to see lawyers start demanding passwords and or confiscating phones or, at the very minimum, demand a list o

      • by jbolden (176878)

        Don't forget those sorts of demands create reasons to get off juries. The courts are not going to be anxious to create situations where potential jurors can walk and/or mistrial.

    • by jd (1658)

      Easy solution - ban all idiots. Not from juries, from planet Earth. Solves the jury problem and the world overpopulation problem in one go. The Soylent Green could help with the terraforming of Mars.

  • by CorporalKlinger (871715) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:25PM (#38821207)
    Being a juror stinks - I think most everyone agrees on that. But the rationale behind restrictions like this makes sense: communication about the case outside the courtroom may result in a juror's opinion being changed by friends, family, Facebook contacts, etc.

    It's hard for some people to slow down and refrain from tweeting of Facebook posting every last thing they do every day... but I'm sure we'd all appreciate a fair trial without undue influence from bystanders who don't know all of the facts if we ever find ourselves seated at the defendant's table one day...

    This is one time when following the rules can have enormous consequences. Far too many people see jury duty as a joke, or otherwise don't follow the rules in other areas of their life (parking in handicapped spots to run into the store for "just a minute," taking things from work because "nobody will miss it") and this transfers to abiding by the rules set forth by the judge at trial. It's a joke for some people - and that's just disrespectful.
    • by hedwards (940851) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:31PM (#38821285)

      You're telling me. I was on a jury once for a month. The court staff and judge were all super nice as long as we followed the rules and held up our end, but it's tiring and time consuming under the best of situations. You spend 4 days a week going back and forth between trial and hanging out in a room with a group of people you have only one thing in common with. And that one thing you have in common you're not allowed to talk about until deliberations.

      It wasn't really that miserable, but I can definitely understand why people would be on FB there if they're on FB normally.

      The handicap spots I kind of understand, I don't park in those ever, but I can understand people being frustrated having to park a block away when there's not just one or two handicap spots going unused.

      • by mr1911 (1942298) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:49PM (#38821473)

        but I can understand people being frustrated having to park a block away when there's not just one or two handicap spots going unused.

        Imagine the frustration of being handicapped and having to park a block away when some douche is taking up the limited handicapped spaces.

        • by Obfuscant (592200)

          Imagine the frustration of being handicapped and having to park a block away when some douche is taking up the limited handicapped spaces.

          Imagine the frustration of there being NO parking spaces except the empty handicapped spots, and the handicapped spots are empty because the Uni has given handicapped people privately reserved spaces carved out of nearby normal spaces.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward
            oddly enough, as someone who is able to walk a few blocks without too much difficulty, i cannot actually imagine the frustration in your scenario.
      • In that situation, I always talk about sex. After all, everyone likes sex, so we have that in common.

      • by gstoddart (321705) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @04:57PM (#38822229) Homepage

        The handicap spots I kind of understand, I don't park in those ever, but I can understand people being frustrated having to park a block away when there's not just one or two handicap spots going unused.

        Try getting a quadraplegic in an electric wheel chair out of a van in the winter when some asshole decided it would be more convenient if he took the handicap space.

        I have done this, and it's hugely difficult. An electric wheel chair weighs something like 250-300 pounds, so getting one unstuck is a hell of a job.

        So, in my experience, parking in the disabled spot when you're not supposed to is being a douche. Right up there with the people who park in the no parking zone in front of stores so they can wait for their spouse to run in quickly ... nobody else cares, and you're blocking traffic.

      • by icebike (68054) *

        You're telling me. I was on a jury once for a month. The court staff and judge were all super nice as long as we followed the rules and held up our end, but it's tiring and time consuming under the best of situations. You spend 4 days a week going back and forth between trial and hanging out in a room with a group of people you have only one thing in common with. And that one thing you have in common you're not allowed to talk about until deliberations.

        You are right, its not that bad, other than the money you are out by missing work. I've never served more than a week, so it might be way worse for those three month "show trials".

        Best thing to do is bring a book, or an ipod, because you will have plenty of time to use either. There always ends up being a lot of waiting around.
        First order of business if selected, is get on the good side of the Bailiff. Its not his fault you are there. A friendly bailiff (and most of them are) will make your stay in the

        • by mattack2 (1165421)

          Don't most people still get paid while on jury duty? I thought at least for "white collar" (my T-shirt has no collar!) jobs, that was typical.

          • by icebike (68054) *

            Most government jobs still pay you, but other than that its hit or miss.

            Some unions lobby for this as a benefit, but not alway successfully. Self employed people are just TSOL, and most small businesses simply can't afford to carry an employee beyond a week or two for jury duty. Some times you can get off for hardship if you are essential for a business.

          • by Ihmhi (1206036)

            Yes, but not necessarily well.

            Here in Essex County, NJ, the pay is equivalent to about $5/day.

            • by mattack2 (1165421)

              I didn't mean "jury duty" pay, I meant your regular job's pay. Apparently it's not as universal as I thought (and thus I'm lucky).

        • the money you are out by missing work

          And parking, and gas... and with jury pay as low as it is, most people actually have to pay to serve on a jury.

          As someone pointed out the other day, unless they send it by certified mail, you can just toss the summons in the trash.

    • Yep. I don't know how many times I've heard people say things like, "Remember, if you go to trial, your case will be heard by twelve people too stupid to get out of jury duty," without even considering how stupid that makes them sound.

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        The implication is that you're stupid if you're honest. Actually those people who are willing to lie to get out of jury service are exactly those people I don't want on the jury anyway, so that's not so bad.

        • by Tacvek (948259)

          For better or worse you don't need to lie to get out of jury duty. You just need to convince either party that leaving you on the jury is too risky, and thus be removed by peremptory strike. Intelligence alone can be a reason for being dismissed. Otherwise things like mannerisms or word choice may cause you be removed without ever once lying.

      • by s.petry (762400) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @06:09PM (#38822985)

        I showed up for Jury duty in Michigan as I am required every day at 9AM for a week. Every day the lawyers would visually inspect us and relieve the ones they did not want. Everyone that brought a book was dismissed. Those that were smart enough to figure out that "reading" will get you dismissed started bringing in books about mid week. It was really the same people over and over again on every jury, those not bright enough to correlate some very basic information.

        Sadly, in our legal methods of jury stacking, that's exactly what each side wants.

    • I'd want a jury that didn't hate being there. The experience sounds unpleasant enough already that I would never sit on a jury. Judges already think they're royalty. Who the F do they think they are to tell me what I can or can't do outside their courtroom?
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by BenLeeImp (1347831)

        They probably think they are Judges, and are telling you how the court works.

  • (reposting, as myself.)

    IMO rules about this sort of thing fall into the category of "people really shouldn't need to be told".

    When you participate on a jury, you are prohibited from communicating anything related to the case with anybody outside of the jury deliberation chambers. End of story. Whether you communicate the information face-to-face, via e-mail, or through Facebook or Twitter really shouldn't matter.

    But of course there are idiots throughout society, so multiple, redundant rules need to be enact

  • by SirGarlon (845873) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:27PM (#38821231)
    I don't see why social media should be treated differently than any other media with respect to jurors. It's simple: don't expose yourself to prejudicial opinions or information. Adding "social media" to the list of sources that can contaminate a jury just shows that judges know their business. Nothing to see here, move along.
  • The first instruction of the jury is always "do not research or discuss the case outside the courtroom". 40 years ago this meant not to watch the evening news or read the morning paper .. now it means not to read wikipedia or tweet about it.

    I suppose the real difference here is it's a lot easier for the defense to find out about later and win an appeal ("your honor, Juror #6 tweeted X about Y during the trial") whereas 40 years ago you could just say "I made my wife get the paper".
    • by Sir_Sri (199544)

      That becomes harder with facebook though. If you're on a jury, but not sequestered, and go to a party and people start talking about the case you're on, are you prejudicing yourself? On facebook that's sort of the same problem, I don't control what my friends choose to post, but it's still there in front of me, whether I want it or not. You could bar people from all social media, but with facebook that's a bit like saying 'don't answer the telephone' - a lot of peoples lives are connected via facebook me

      • with facebook that's a bit like saying 'don't answer the telephone' - a lot of peoples lives are connected via facebook messages rather than e-mail or the like.

        oh, boo-hoo.... dunno, I personally find the idea that such tools would sit jury over the fate of another human being fucking disgusting, anyway.

        • by Sir_Sri (199544)

          Is general chat in world of warcraft (or the old republic) 'social media'? How about guild chat? How about voice chat on xbox live? Is /.?

          If you're on an important enough case you have to be sequestered - fair enough. But the vast majority of cases are completely unimportant to the broader national or international interest. We *could* sequester juries for everything, but that significantly drives up costs, and gets you what? More reason for people to try and dodge jury duty? I don't think that helps

          • hmm, all of that is very reasonable, which is awkward, I was just spewing hate >:(

            I have nothing to add to your points, which are all very good... I guess my only honest response to that would be what carlin said, about not even buying into most premises of the system. you're talking about the real world and how to make it work or gradually change it, I'm kicking and screaming obscenities. just so you know where I'm coming from :)

      • by jd (1658)

        In this day and age, where information is so pervasive and connectedness is so absolute, maybe there should be no such thing as a non-sequestered jury any more.

        • by jbolden (176878)

          It still isn't all that pervasive for most cases. Nancy the waitress is being tried for stealing $3752.49 from her employer....

      • by Darinbob (1142669)

        Well, taking a break from Facebook and all social media is probably good for them anyway. If there's something important to be communicated then it won't be sent via Facebook.

    • by KhabaLox (1906148)

      now it means not to read wikipedia

      I know wikipedia is broad, but if the trial in question has it's own wikipedia page, then it's probably interesting enough for me to want to be on the jury.

      I've been called twice, and served once. When I served, it was as the 2nd of 2 alternates on a personal injury case (rear-ended on the freeway). It was a boring case of she said-she said, and it took the jury all of 10 minutes to come back with a ruling of no-fault/no-damages (the plaintiff was the one who rear-ended the defendant). The case was borin

  • so.... (Score:4, Funny)

    by uncanny (954868) on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:41PM (#38821391)
    google+ has an impact on something? this is news!
  • by augustw (785088) <august@kororaa.com> on Wednesday January 25, 2012 @03:46PM (#38821439)

    In England, a juror was jailed last year for communicating with an acquitted defendant on Facebook: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jun/16/facebook-juror-jailed-for-eight-months [guardian.co.uk]

    And another was jailed last week for researching the defendant on the internet generally: http://www.guardian.co.uk/law/2012/jan/23/juror-contempt-court-online-research [guardian.co.uk]

    • by KhabaLox (1906148)

      You can't have contact after the trial? Seems a bit much.

      • by augustw (785088)

        The trial of other people accused of the same crime was still ongoing, on which she was a juror, which is why it was contempt for contacting the acquitted party.
          .
        Although it's also illegal, in the UK, to discuss anything about the jury deliberations after the trial.

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      In England, a juror was jailed last year for communicating with an acquitted defendant on Facebook: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jun/16/facebook-juror-jailed-for-eight-months [guardian.co.uk]

      one question:

      Knox, Sewart's 35-year-old partner, is applying for his conviction to be overturned on the basis of alleged jury misconduct. He was jailed for six years after being found guilty of paying a police officer to disclose information on drug dealers.

      It's illegal to buy information in Britain?

      • by jd (1658)

        If the information is (a) personal and (b) on a computer, then it falls foul of the Data Protection Act. (b) may or may not still be required, there was talk of the DPA applying to all personal information regardless of the medium but I never followed up on the story.

    • by Teun (17872)
      For someone from a country with a professional legal system all these stories about a bunch of amateurs 'applying' the law are hair raising.

      How the hell are things not skewed when the jurors are told (to pretend) to live in an era two centuries ago yet the presiding judge can take part in any discussion or read any paper he wishes?

      • For someone from a country with a professional legal system all these stories about a bunch of amateurs 'applying' the law are hair raising.

        Juries don't apply the law. They find the facts. Judges determine the applicable law, and apply the law to the factual issues in dispute in the case to decide the fact questions to put to the jury.

        How the hell are things not skewed when the jurors are told (to pretend) to live in an era two centuries ago

        Juries aren't told to pretend to live in an era two centuries ago.

    • by StikyPad (445176)

      Ars had an article [arstechnica.com] about the most recent case, and seems to come to the conclusion that it's stupid to have rules that can't be enforced except by the people who are subject to them, and points out the dichotomy between jurors being required to draw on their life experience without being allowed to do things such as looking up terms they may not understand. Do we want knowledgeable juries, or do we not? (Who lawyers want on juries is another question altogether.)

      Anyway, my takeaway was to do as you please

      • by Fjandr (66656)

        Looking up terms on your own can cause an understanding of them which is not the same as what they mean within the context of a specific case. That's why jurors who have a question about the definition of a term they don't understand as used in court are required to ask the judge for the appropriate definition. I don't disagree that looking for outside context could be beneficial, but it can also be incredibly damaging.

        The English language can be incredibly ambiguous, and the definition one decides on after

      • being required to draw on their life experience without being allowed to do things such as looking up terms they may not understand

        Actually, you can only draw on your general life experience; you are not allowed to introduce any specialized knowledge that you may have into the deliberations. One example that comes to mind would be a person who does not speak English being brought into the courtroom to testify in a language that one of the jurors happens to speak. The juror is actually not supposed to listen to the words the witness says, but is to rely solely on the translator's statements. If there is an inaccurate translation, it is

        • If I'm on a jury and a defendant is about to get convicted on the basis of a bad translation of which I am aware, I'm not going to just say "so sad too bad you lose sucker".
          • Telling anyone else in the jury about it is grounds for a mistrial. Of course, in almost every state (OR and LA excepted), one holdout will prevent a conviction and cause a mistrial, and nobody can force you to tell why. You might choose to tell the judge, if you liked.
      • by jbolden (176878)

        You are an expert on your life's experience. Anything you need to look up you are not an expert on. If you want a question answered you ask the court to answer it.

    • by Inda (580031)
      This week, is the Harry Redknapp tax trial, a reporter was found to be tweeting a jury member's name and other information.

      Tweeting in court was banned at that point.

      http://www.pressgazette.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=1&storycode=48623&c=1
  • 1. The use of mobile technology may be very important towards educating jurors during their jury duty. It may be important for them to research case law and to educate themselves about various aspects of the case.

    2. If their opinions can be so easily swayed by FB/Twitter, I don't want them being jurors, ever.
  • by PPH (736903)

    0x0c Angry men

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