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Crime The Courts Wikipedia Your Rights Online

Judge Declares Mistrial Because of Wikipedia 558

Pickens writes "The Palm Beach Post reports that a police officer convicted of drugging and raping a family member will get a new trial because the jury forewoman brought a Wikipedia article into deliberations. Broward Circuit Judge Stanton Kaplan declared a mistrial after Fay Mason admitted in court that she had downloaded information about 'rape trauma syndrome' and sexual assault from Wikipedia and brought it to the jury room. 'I didn't read about the case in the newspaper or watch anything on TV,' says Mason. 'To me, I was just looking up a phrase.' Judge Kaplan called all six jurors into the courtroom and explained that Mason had unintentionally tainted their verdict and endangered the officer's right to a fair trial. Mason does not face any penalties for her actions."
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Judge Declares Mistrial Because of Wikipedia

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  • by fishexe ( 168879 ) on Friday December 17, 2010 @09:22AM (#34586070) Homepage

    So what makes a reference acceptable? I mean even the Encyclopedia Britannica contains errors or has entries that have changed / are out of date.

    You're not allowed to bring Encyclopedia Britannica into jury deliberations either. No outside sources of information, that's the rule.

    In the end, I think Wikipedia should be an allowed reference source as long as _all_ (and not just from wikipedia) sources are checked by the court later on.

    The point is not accuracy, the point is to allow the court to control what evidence the jury has access to so that both sides have a fair shot at rebutting or clarifying anything that might otherwise hurt their case. The proper thing to do is for the jury to ask the judge for more information, and have the judge come up with with the encyclopedia article or other source deemed appropriate for the purposes of the trial, possibly in consultation with both the prosecution and defense.

  • by HungryHobo ( 1314109 ) on Friday December 17, 2010 @09:31AM (#34586142)

    really? the whole thing is coming down? could have fooled me.
    I could have sworn that it's still going strong as a moderately reliable source of information which is vastly more accessible than almost any other in history.

  • by macraig ( 621737 ) <mark@a@craig.gmail@com> on Friday December 17, 2010 @10:18AM (#34586632)

    The judge then takes responsibility for making sure the information you get is reliable, rather than some shit you found on the internet.

    That doesn't always happen. My last jury stint involved a trial with more than one defendant and an invocation of the so-called "felony murder rule". The judge wanted each jury member to affirm that they would treat the felony murder rule as Gospel, AND made this demand WITHOUT any detailed discussion of its value or history. When I specifically asked for that, the judge flatly denied my request. So I did what any freethinker would have done: during lunch I "broke the rules" using the court house's free wifi and researched the felony murder rule on my Pocket PC.

    Given my experience I'm not inclined to fault this woman for what she did, even though she was more surreptitious than I was. She likely figured the judge would have simply denied such a request, as the judge did mine. Our current juror system truly does favor ignorant valueless robots. I'm not happy at all making that observation.

  • Re:wow... (Score:5, Informative)

    by rjstanford ( 69735 ) on Friday December 17, 2010 @10:29AM (#34586758) Homepage Journal

    Do fill us in on where the judges would get this reliable information from. They have experts in every area on standby at the end of a phone? Or do they just an encylopedia , maybe , gasp , even wikipedia?

    Wherever the get the information from, it becomes part of the record of the case and, if necessary, can be discussed by counsel before delivery to the jury or, at worst case, used as grounds for appeal by either side after the fact.

    Keeping accurate records of everything the jury was told in order to form a verdict is very important, especially if some of it is later found to be inaccurate.

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