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The Courts Your Rights Online

Lawyer Demands Jury Stops Googling 517

coomaria noted an unsurprising story about how courts are having problems with jurors Googling during cases. As anyone who has ever been called for jury duty knows, you aren't allowed to get outside information about the case you are hearing, but apparently the iPhone makes it far too easy to ignore this advice. A lawyer is trying to get jurors to sign a form explicitly stating they won't "use 'personal electronic and media devices' to research or communicate about the case." Of course, I'm not exactly sure why a juror should need to sign something for your iPhone but not a newspaper.
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Lawyer Demands Jury Stops Googling

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  • As a former Juror... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MarkusH ( 198450 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:34AM (#29453971)

    You're not supposed to read the newspaper either.

  • Re:Twitter (Score:3, Informative)

    by Panseh ( 1072370 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:41AM (#29454067)
    Actually... [slashdot.org]
  • by malignant_minded ( 884324 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:43AM (#29454109)
    Perhaps because a newspaper often is more shock and awe stuff and really doesn't cover laws and loopholes as a Google searches might.
  • Re:Just confused? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Nukenbar ( 215420 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:45AM (#29454133)

    That's is why a jury is allowed to ask questions and ask for read back of testimony during jury deliberations. A juror might google segregation, read the first sentence or two, and think that Plessy v. Ferguson [wikipedia.org] is still good law.

  • Re:Just confused? (Score:2, Informative)

    by pauljlucas ( 529435 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:51AM (#29454239) Homepage Journal
    Lawyers tend not to do that, or at least explain it. They're fully aware that jurors aren't lawyers. But, if a juror is confused for any reason, s/he is supposed to submit written questions to the judge. I did exactly that when I served on a jury.
  • Re:Newspaper (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spazztastic ( 814296 ) <`moc.liamg' `ta' `citsatzzaps'> on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:55AM (#29454281)

    What about TV? Especially in OJish cases where every TV on the planet is blaring about it!

    When you're a juror you're not supposed to really watch TV. A friend is about to give a victim's statement on a murder case and she isn't allowed to discuss the facts of the case, watch TV, call anybody about it, read the newspaper, or do just about anything that could skew her opinion on the case. Sure, you can watch Happy Days reruns on TV Land if your shitty motel 6 room that the district attourney set you up in has it, but when you're flown out of state to give testimony on a case and you have nothing to do but sit in a hotel room it's pretty boring. I told her to bring books. Lots of books.

  • by pavon ( 30274 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @11:58AM (#29454343)

    To add to this excellent post, it is also critical as a means of keeping law enforcement in line. If the police obtain evidence by means of unlawful search and seizure, the judge can and should ban that evidence from being presented in court. It isn't banned from being printed in the media though; free speech and all.

  • by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:08PM (#29454489) Journal

    The defense and prosecution attorneys are biased against each other and both will be experts in questioning witnesses. Together, they do a better job of grilling the witnesses than the jury could hope to do. All the jury has to do is listen, take notes, and come to a decision.

  • Re:Just confused? (Score:5, Informative)

    by pdabbadabba ( 720526 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:10PM (#29454511) Homepage

    Yes. That is also why jurors are not supposed to reach decisions on matters of law, only matters of fact. If the jury members need to understand the legalese someone is doing something wrong.

  • Re:Heaven forbid... (Score:3, Informative)

    by weave ( 48069 ) * on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:12PM (#29454535) Journal

    People on juries are people with a strong sense of social responsibility and people too stupid to get out of it.

    I was picked to be a juror on a civil "slip and fall" case. I wanted to serve. The defense attorneys used their peremptory challenges to remove all educated people on the jury, including myself.

    Also, back to the story topic, jurors were not allowed any type of electronic device in the entire courthouse either.

  • Re:Keep em ignorant (Score:4, Informative)

    by DaveV1.0 ( 203135 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:15PM (#29454555) Journal

    Yes, because if you were on trial accused of dealing drugs, you would want the jury to know you were arrested for smoking pot even though the judge in the trial said it was not relevant to the case. And, then when they found you guilty, even though you were innocent because they had developed a biased opinion of you from their internet research, I am sure you will have no problem with it.

    Just like if you were arrested at 17 for statutory rape of your 18yo girlfriend (yes, this is possible), you would want the jury to know that you were arrested for rape when a woman IDs you as her rapist, even though there is no physical evidence and little circumstantial evidence and the judge has ruled that your previous arrest (and possible conviction) is not germane to the case.

    OH, and I am sure you would want jurors reading blogs that say "He did it! We know he did it! The police just screwed up the case!" while deciding your fate.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:15PM (#29454561)

    American are not stupid

    [citation needed]

  • Re:Just confused? (Score:3, Informative)

    by gnud ( 934243 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:38PM (#29454951)
    IANAL, of course. But my understanding is that jurors need to understand which facts would have to be established in order for a crime to be, e.g, 1st degree and not 2nd degree murder.
  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @12:38PM (#29454963) Journal

    Except you can't really fix things. Languages evolve and change no matter what.

    Rome tried to fix the language, and basically the result was that it split into two increasingly diverging languages. Increasingly the language of the common folk, the so called "Vulgar Latin" had less and less to do with what you'd nowadays think of Classical Latin. Unless you were of senatorial class (by empire times it had become a hereditary class) or had some other reason to learn the official form, you probably didn't and it would sound as funny to you as your quote above to a modern English speaker.

    The Greeks tried the same with, well, Greek and it too split.

    English itself is an example of precisely the results of the idiocy of trying to stop language evolution. At one point English was actually phonetic. E.g., "knight" was really read as it's written, i.e., with a short "i" like in "time" and with the "k" and "g" and "h" actually pronounced. I.e., akin to the German "knecht". But language kept changing. From that word it turned into the modern one which sounds like "night". But due to stupidly trying to stick to the old form, the written form didn't change too, and English writing by and large stopped being phonetic. You're back to, basically, words being hieroglyphs that offer you no indication of how it's pronounced. It's using a phonetic alphabet, but phonetic it ain't any more.

    And what was the gain? As I was saying, language still evolved anyway. Words changed, meanings changed, constructs changed, etc. That didn't stop at all. Just the orthography increasingly became an arbitrary bunch of letters that are associated with that word for nothing more than historical reasons.

  • by freemywrld ( 821105 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @02:17PM (#29456579) Homepage

    i.e., with a short "i" like in "time"

    Sorry to be pedantic but a "short i" would be like in "it". The i in "time" is a "long i", aka the vowel is pronounced like the name of the letter.

  • Re:Just confused? (Score:3, Informative)

    by clone53421 ( 1310749 ) on Thursday September 17, 2009 @02:45PM (#29457095) Journal

    Yeah, well, except that if you give any suggestion that you, as a juror, might disagree with the law and ignore it in your ruling, you'll be rejected by the prosecution during the juror selection process. I suppose you could lie to them when they ask you whether you'd uphold the law...

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