Friday, May 25, 2012

Absentee Juror In Federal Trial Found In Contempt, Plus Good Commentary on Civic Duty

The order has a lengthy discussion of the facts which the court found insufficient to warrant absence of a seated juror, ie a business trip claimed necessary to avoid losing an important client.  Also a good commentary on the responsibility of employers, the history of jury service, and the civic duty of all citizens.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Florida Jurors Banned From Facebooking During Trial

The Florida Supreme Court is following the national trend toward more formalized and specific preliminary jury instructions that jurors may not discuss the case on Facebook, "tweet" or blog about it during trial:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Now I Have Seen Misconduct First-hand! and Facebooking Jurors Do NOT Cause New Trial

I can write about this as the trial is over and there can be no appeal.  During jury selection this week in the courtroom a prospective juror's smartphone buzzed, so he took it out and scrolled to read the text.  We were nearly done with jury selection (so he probably concluded as he had not be chosen as yet it was OK to read the text) so I did not embarrass him in front of 40 other people.  This was despite the poster (at right margin) being in the jury room where he waited 2 full days and my lengthy admonitions as discussed elsewhere in this blog.

Here is another appellate case regarding jurors on Facebook, fitting as today is the first day of trading Facebook shares from the IPO.  Note that a new trial was NOT ordered, that is, "no harm, no foul:"

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.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Law Review article on Jurors Misconduct in the Digital Age

Here is a link to an abstract of  "Google, Gadgets and Guilt: Juror Misconduct in the Digital Age" by Thaddeus Hoffmeister, 83 U. Colo. L. Rev. 409 (Winter 2012).

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Another Issue for Judges In Voir Dire: "Have you viewed the Attorney's website?"

Now that parties to lawsuits or criminal cases are establishing case-specific websites, should the judge ask jurors if they have viewed any websites established by any of the parties or attorneys in the case?

Check out this link:

My answer: a definite yes, with a specific instruction that the jurors shall NOT look for it through Google or any other search engine.  Though I wonder if this simply encourages them to do so anyway.  Perhaps the attorneys could be convinced to shutdown the website prior to trial.