Smartphones in the Jury Box

by Mike Mintz on December 13, 2011 · 0 comments

in martindale.com

We live in an age of social media, smartphones and nonstop wireless Internet connection.  Cisco recently conducted a study, which proves how important these technologies are to our society, specifically to the next generation.  Here are some of the results:

  • “More than half of students (55%) and an even larger proportion of end users (62%) indicate they could not live without the Internet; and one-third of respondents in each subgroup consider the Internet to be as important as water, food, air, and shelter.
  • Half of those surveyed would rather lose their wallet or purse than their smartphone or mobile device.”

See6 Things You Must Know About Social Media & Your Workforce.”

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen.  These are the individuals of our jury system.  Jurors are accustomed to regularly checking their email and smartphones, texting, googling, tweeting, facebooking and instant messaging during the regular course of their day.  So, it goes without saying that when they sit on a jury, they behave no differently.

Today, jurors research legal terms, parties, the attorneys, the judges, the evidence and “friend” each other on Facebook.  Here are some prime examples of juror misconduct in the digital age:

  • “a juror in England attempted to poll her Facebook ‘friends’ to help her decide a difficult case.
  • Several jurors in a Baltimore case became Facebook ‘friends’ during the trial and electronically exchanged information and commentary with each other about the case, including ‘an outsider’s online opinion of what the verdict should be.’  …
  • [And,] a prospective juror in South Dakota did a Google search on the corporate defendant upon receipt of a jury summons and then ended up on the jury.”

In response to this recent phenomenon, the Hon. Ralph Artigliere (ret.), who is a recognized expert in civil litigation, published an article in the Drake University Law School Law Review, entitled “Disconnecting Jurors From the Internet During Trial,” 59 Drake L. Rev. 621.  The article provides suggestions to judges and litigators for ways to avoid juror misconduct such as that mentioned above.

To learn more on how courts and jury instruction committees are handling this issue, read “Juror Misconduct – Challenges for the Digital Age.”

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