Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Facebooking in Court: Coping With Socially Networked Jurors

Law.com recently published an article entitled Facebooking in Court: Coping With Socially Networked Jurors.

It deals with the new reality of jurors who use social networks such as Facebook to discuss cases which they are hearing:
"This is the new courtroom reality, one that offers courts less control over what information flows in and out of the jury box. The problem is that, over the centuries, our legal system developed rules designed to ensure that the facts presented to a jury are scrutinized and challenged by both sides. Jurors were asked to hear all the evidence, refrain from sharing opinions and ultimately deliberate in secret. But modern, socially networked jurors accustomed to accessing and sharing information are colliding with this fishbowl experience and disrupting trials in ways few know how to address"
The article describes a number of incidents in the United States where jurors have breached their duties by posting case-related comments online or by engaging in other forms of forbidden behaviour (such as inviting a witness to become a Facebook friend).

The article also outlines how U.S. courts are adapting by developing new jury guidelines and instructions.

Earlier Library Boy posts on the topic include:
  • Impartiality of Juries Threatened by Web? (October 22, 2009): "Donald Findlay QC, one of Scotland's top criminal lawyers, has warned that the impartiality of the jury system is at risk due to jurors using internet search engines and has warned that the Government cannot continue with its 'ostrich-like' attitude to the problem (...) "
  • Should Twitter in the Courtroom Be Illegal? (November 11, 2009): "A U.S. federal court in the state of Georgia has ruled that Rule 53 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure prohibits 'tweeting' from the courtroom ..."
  • More Jurors Get Into Trouble for Going on the Net (December 13, 2009): "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. "
  • Should Judges Join Facebook? (January 12, 2010): "In yesterday's Montreal Gazette, an article about whether Canadian judges should be on the popular social networking site Facebook: 'Amid escalating debate in the U.S. about judicial antics online, the Canadian Judicial Council has turned its attention to whether there should be some ground rules for judges who want to join Facebook and other social networking sites (...) While there are no known cases of Canadian judges on Facebook, participation in the U.S. has reached a level that prompted the Florida judicial ethics committee to issue an edict last month that judges and lawyers should not be Facebook 'friends,' to avoid appearance of conflict in the event they end up in the same courtroom (...)' "
  • U.S. Federal Courts Tell Jurors Twitter, Facebook and Texting Verboten (February 9, 2010): "Wired Magazine is reporting that the Judicial Conference of the United States, the body that develops policy for federal courts in that country, has proposed new model jury instructions that explicitly ban the use of applications like Facebook and Twitter ..."
  • Social Media Use by Government and Courts (March 16, 2010): "a short and selective list of articles, resources and sites ... helpful in explaining the use of social media by courts" (US)

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 7:23 pm

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