Monday, May 7, 2012

Juror's Use of Internet Adversely Affects Defendant's 6th Amendment Rights

An excellent article may be found in the University of Illinois Law Review, link as follows:

The author, law student Marcy Zora, summarizes well the problems of jurors' use of social media and the Internet, and the efforts judges have made to stem the growing tide of mistrials due to this problem.  A defendant's 6th amendment rights are violated when jurors rely on information received outside of the courtroom, including information from sources that are not accurate.  She emphasizes that jury instructions admonishing jurors not to conduct Internet research or discuss the case in social media should be specific as to Internet use (Facebook, Google, MySpace, etc) and be given frequently throughout the trial.  I agree with her suggestions.  However, I disagree with her conclusion that the threats of punishment such as contempt, fines, and (in California: see my 1-3-12 post) misdemeanor charges, will effectively prevent jurors from violating the judge's admonitions.  Social scientists suggest that jurors may seek the "forbidden fruit" simply because the judge says they may not.  Anti-government types may simply see this as a challenge to their privacy rights by an oppressive government.

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