Sunday, December 13, 2009

More Jurors Get Into Trouble for Going on the Net

According to the Baltimore Sun article Judges confounded by jury's access to cyberspace, courts are having trouble controlling what kind of information jurors are exposed to during trials and jury deliberations:
"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."

"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."
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.

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:

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 4:53 pm

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