More Jurors Get Into Trouble for Going on the Net
"Last week, a Maryland appeals court upended a first-degree murder conviction because a juror consulted Wikipedia for trial information. Earlier this year, the appeals judges erased a conviction for three counts of assault because a juror did cyberspace research and shared the findings with the rest of the jury. In a third recent trial, a juror's admission to using his laptop for off-limits information jeopardized an attempted-murder trial."The upcoming annual conference of the Canadian Association of Law Libraries in Windsor, Ontario (May 2010) has a panel devoted to the impact of Internet and web 2.0 technologies on what happens inside the courtroom and the jury deliberation room.
"On Friday, lawyers for Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon asked for a new trial in part because five of the jurors who convicted her of embezzlement Dec. 1 were communicating among themselves on Facebook during the deliberations period - and at least one of them received an outsider's online opinion of what the verdict should be. The 'Facebook Friends,' as Dixon's lawyers call them in court documents, became a clique that the lawyers argue altered jury dynamics."
There has been a growing number of incidents in the United States where lawyers have asked the presiding judge at a trial to disqualify a juror for misconduct or to declare a mistrial because of what jurors have posted on their personal blogs, Twitter accounts or Facebook pages.
There have also been concerns about jurors doing online research, "visiting" a crime scene on Google Earth or following Twitter or blog feeds written by reporters or others during a trial. Another concern: tipping off witnesses to proceedings in the courtroom before they testify.
In this country, we have not faced the same problems as those that have occurred south of the border. But are Canadian judges anticipating such problems? How does a judge handle all of this?
More background on the topic:
- Here is a Lawyers Weekly article from June 12, 2009: Twitter in the courtroom: a fad, or here to stay?
- Here is an article from the August 2009 issue of TRIAL, the journal of the American Association for Justice (formerly the Association of Trial Lawyers of America): Texts and “tweets” by jurors, lawyers pose courtroom conundrums
- This is an article from the Providence Journal (Rhode Island): New juror policy accounts for new technology
- A recent article in Jury News from the Center for Jury Studies, National Center for State Courts (US): Google Mistrials, Twittering Jurors, Juror Blogs, and Other Technological Hazards