Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Technology & Effect on Jurors

New concerns have risen for trial attorneys in this high tech Facebook age. At the office, in the car or anywhere else, we share every detail of our daily existence in real time on Facebook. Most of the time, this is acceptable; however there is a new epidemic of posting jurors opinions on Facebook before the case is over.
Recently, a Michigan juror was fined for posting how it was "gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're GUILTY."  Also, a New York juror was found to have “friended” a key witness to a trial causing the judge to order a mistrial.  An Arkansas jury used his cell phone to update his Twitter during court proceedings stating that “he just have away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of someone else’s money.”  
Modern social networks are a new courtroom reality and challenge for attorneys. New model jury instructions must include details explicitly instructing jurors not to communicate with anyone about the case, including via cell phone, email, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, or any other social network.  Jurors will now need to be probed during voir dire on their Facebook and Twitter use, jurors should be monitored during the trial, and judges should be asked to remind jurors to report fellow juror’s misconduct should a juror fail to follow the court’s ban on communicating with others about the case.
It is mandatory for all my case preparation to include an search for the claimant or witness on the different social networks.  Now, this information is just as important from the jurors and can shape how I present my case.