Thursday, September 15, 2011


Anoka County (MN) District Court Judge Alan Pendleton provided me with these voir dire questions regarding the prohibition on Internet research and misuse of social media during trial:

1.  How many of you own a mobile electronic device such as a Blackberry or iPhone?

2.  How many of you have access to the Internet at home or elsewhere?

3.  How many of you regularly access social network sites such as Facebook or Twitter or MySpace?

4.  During this trial you will be strictly prohibited from conducting any type of Internet research on the parties, attorneys or issues involved in the case.  You will be prohibited from posting information about the trial on social network sites such as Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.  You will also be prohibited from bringing any electronic devices into the jury room during your deliberations.  Any violation of that prohibition would jeopardize the entire trial; it could result in a mistrial and the parties would have to start all over with a new jury.

5.  Is there anyone here that would not be willing or able to respect and comply with that prohibition?

Sample instructions from the American College of Trial Lawyers (see post regarding "Links to Helpful Resources" below) are more detailed and include the following:

        Reference to Smartphones, PDA's;  LinkedIn.

        You may not do any personal investigation, including visiting any of the places involved in this    case, using Internet maps or Google Earth, talking to any possible witnesses, or creating your own demonstrations or reenactment of the events which are the subject of this case.

QUERY:  Are threats of contempt counter-productive and simply inviting the anti-government juror to violate the court's instructions?  Your comments are appreciated.

Judge's Challenge:     Our challenge is to remain current in our admonitions and include as many devices (tablets) and search engines (Yahoo, Bing) and social media (You Tube, Twitter) as possible.                

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