Jurors Cause Trouble By Friending Each Other On Facebook, Using Wikipedia For Research

from the no-friending-allowed dept

We've discussed numerous court cases where modern technology has caused significant procedural problems from "the old ways" of doing things. CitMediaLaw points us to a story that includes two more cases, both in Maryland. In one, lawyers are seeking a new trial because some of the jurors became Facebook "friends" during the trial. This follows on the news that Florida is forbidding judges from friending lawyers on social networking sites, but is it reasonable to prevent jurors from friending each other? For many Facebook users, "friending" people you meet is quite natural and something you do almost immediately upon meeting someone new. So it should be no surprise that some jurors would choose to quickly friend each other. It's hard to see how that would make the results of the jury verdict suspect, however.

The second case involved jurors using Wikipedia to look up some terms. This is hardly a new concept. Some judges these days are specifically warning jurors not to use the internet to look up anything related to a case, but for a generation of folks who consider internet research to be an adjunct part of the thinking process, it's not hard to recognize why many would ignore this, and not think they're doing anything wrong (and they might have a good argument). The real question is whether or not there are reasonable ways to change the way the jury system works to allow for what many people consider perfectly natural: doing additional research on their own. For those who are comfortable with the old system, this may seem like a horrific idea (and yes, we all understand the reasons why the current system wants to limit things to just what's said in the courtroom). However, at some point the system may need to recognize that an artificial constraint on learning about the details of the case may not actually be the best system.


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  1.  
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    Steve R. (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 6:19am

    Can't Stop the Message

    We just had this weekend the graduation from college for my eldest daughter. When the graduation began, the speaker (of course) admonished everyone to turn off their cell phones.

    Well during the ceremony, one of my other daughters was in constant communication by texting my eldest daughter. After the ceremony, I asked my eldest daughter what the other graduates were doing. Her response texting!

    So, today we are no longer forced to simply sit for a couple of hours listening to incredibly boring speakers. Ah progress!!!

     

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    belg4mit, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 6:25am

    Meh

    "Friending" someone you don't know/just met is asinine and contrary to the definition of the word friend anyhow. however, if judge and counsel wish to prevent any of this they need only impound the jury...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 6:41am

    Using Wikipedia as a source of knowledge isn't really the best idea. Wiki's own standards for what stays on the site are incredibly low, and allow a fair bit of nuance and twisting to occur.

    In a court of law, the jurors are suppose to work with the material as presented in the court, not outside information they have sourced themselves. There is no way to control that outside information, and no way to be sure of it's crediblity. Imagine a court case on copyright and one of the jurors is reading this site, and another is reading the RIAA blog. which one is right? neither of them, because they are allowed biased comments to influence their opinions.

    Jurors are not investigators, and should never take up that role.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 6:47am

    Ummm...no, never...

    The point about looking stuff up on the internet applied long before there was an internet, only it was related to newspapers, radio and television.

    The problem is not that people are looking stuff up (or reading newspapers, listening to the radio, or watching television), but they are also reading interpretations and getting information never presented to the jury. Sometimes it is because the information may have been smoke, but was never proven to be fire. Sometimes people are convicted by the media because the media make inferences and draw conclusions based on limited information, but a jury should never do that. However, finding those sorts of discussions on the internet, which they will, will immediately taint the jury and it is likely that someone will make a motion for a mistrial. The potential for abuse is high.

    By way of example, I think a huge chunk of the world was convinced that O.J. Simpson was guilty, regardless of what the jury ruled. Depending on what people on the Simpson jury might have been reading, the outcome might well have been very different. Which was more fair to O.J.? If the jury had been tainted by media coverage, would there have been an immediate appeal? Absolutely.

    This situation is not one where new technology somehow argues to permit people to do what they have never done before. It just says there are more ways for people to get misinformation and to conclude from that misinformation, either favorably or unfavorably for the defendant, something that is different from what supported fact would conclude. In every single case such conduct is automatic grounds for an appeal - and the party requesting the appeal would be correct.

    If you want horrific, how about the possibility that all electronic toys would be taken from a jury during their duty and the court sequesters the jury somewhere away from all contact with the public? Courts have done this in the past when media coverage was so extensive that there was no reasonable way to prevent pollution of the jury. It could start to become the norm. We could start seeing special hotels for juries with Faraday cages.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 6:51am

    Re:

    Oh. You mean that a defendant should not be convicted or set free based on a combination of popular opinion (or the opinion of individuals in the media), innuendo, rumors, and conclusions supported by sketchy evidence, as opposed to facts? That seems like a pretty novel concept.

    Allowing jurors to be sitting there looking stuff up on the internet, including reading the op-ed pieces, analyst and media conclusions will just "help" them reach their verdict sooooo much faster.

     

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    Joseph M. Durnal, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 6:57am

    Bad Jury

    Jurors friending each other during the trial or during deliberations isn't a good idea, but that alone doesn't mean that they have done anything improper, but it might look that way. The judge now has to ask the jury if there were any improper communications. When the judge tells you not to communicate outside the jury room, I'd take that to mean, no friending, but that is just me I guess.

    In the Dixon trial, there was some concern over a comment left on a facebook status, I think it was simply "Guilty!" or something like that. I don't see why this would be any different than someone yelling guilty from the street as the jurors left the court, but, the lawyers were making a big deal over it.

    As far as using wikipedia to look up terms, well, first, there is the whole wikipedia problem. Imagine if one of the attorneys thought that is what they were doing, they could edit it in their favor. But in general, jurors are not supposed to do outside research of any kind. If I were a juror, I sure wouldn't like it, but still, I see why it is good. A lot of effort is made to ensure that a trial is fair, that facts are verified, and disputed facts are cross examined or rebutted. You don't get that with the outside research.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 6:57am

    Re: Ummm...no, never...

    This illustrates the whole problem. Fair to OJ is determining the truth of what was done. If he did it, the legal system failed. If he didn't, the legal system succeeded.

    For some reason, when people start talking about the law, they throw out common sense and morality. That is stupid.

    So, the question is whether a jury that has additional information is better able to decide the truth. If they are not, that's an enormous indictment of our media system. If they are, there's no problem.

    The legal system we have now is so often abused by so many. It costs a lot of money and routinely frees the guilty and imprisons the innocent. Yet people defend it as the only possible system that could ever exist. As if it's some perfect thing that descended from heaven.

    It's an antiquated system that is full of inefficiency, abuse, and error.

    The best example of this is people thinking that uninformed people are somehow better able to judge truth.

     

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    Ryan M, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:07am

    It seems to me that a big part of this problem could be remedied by allowing the jurors to ask questions during the trial. Most states do not allow this, so it is very understandable to me that the jurors would want to clarify things using the instant research method they're comfortable with -- the Internet. I fail to see how allowing jurors to ask questions during the trial is at all bad, since if we are truly in search of the truth, anything that gets more facts out in the open should aide in that search.

     

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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:16am

    Re: Ummm...no, never...

    I think a huge chunk of the world was convinced that O.J. Simpson was guilty, regardless of what the jury ruled.

    ...and then he went on to publish a book called If I Did It: Confessions of the Killer.
    Guess the media really screwed the pooch on that one, eh?

     

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    WTF, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:20am

    Mike seriously? You make yourself sound like an idiot. You don't understand the legal system.

     

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    JoeNYC, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:23am

    Re: Re:

    >Allowing jurors to be sitting there looking stuff up on the internet, including reading the op-ed pieces, analyst and media conclusions will just "help" them reach their verdict sooooo much faster.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:24am

    Re: Re: Ummm...no, never...

    Hmm, not to quibble, but one thing that struck me:

    "For some reason, when people start talking about the law, they throw out common sense and morality. That is stupid."

    Couldn't disagree more with the morality portion. The law is NOT about morality, at least in the traditional sense of the word. Morality is about right and wrong. The law is not. The law is about setting up a controlled environment that will allow the most amount of people in society to pursue life, liberty, and blah blah blah. There may sound like there is some loose correlation (i.e. Thou shalt not kill vs. Murder in the 1st/2nd degree), but they're really not about the same thing. Law makers don't outlaw murder because it's wrong, at least not primarily. They outlaw it because not doing so creates an unlivable environment for their constituents.

    *It's an extreme example, but lower the extremes and I believe you'll see it still applies*

     

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    known coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:28am

    this is not new

    juror's have always been told not to do their own research into a topic and only view what is presented in court. Sometimes new technology does not introduce new concepts to every field it can touch. Before the internet Juror's were instructed not to watch television, before television juror's were told not to listen to the radio, before the radio . . . . well you get the idea.

     

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    Just Another Moron in a Hurry (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:32am

    Not all of us...

    "we all understand the reasons why the current system wants to limit things to just what's said in the courtroom"

    Actually, I'm Just a Moron, and I don't really understand the Reasons.

    Could someone please educate me?

     

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    The Groove Tiger (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:34am

    Re: Meh

    The word "friend" in Facebook is just a stupid misnomer. Oh look, I've got 5000 friends! They're friends as much as every single person in your cellphone memory is your friend.

    Maybe they should bar people from adding other people in their phones, including judges and lawyers! I mean, why would a lawyer need the phone number of a judge? Preposterous.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re: Ummm...no, never...

    However, there was also a big chunk of people who thought he was innocent BEFORE HE WAS EVEN CHARGED. Heh, heh. So, the only question is which group you researched. As with so many things, there were people on both sides of the issue, so even if he were found guilty your statement would still be the same - and therefore meaningless.

     

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    Just Another Moron in a Hurry (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:41am

    Re: Not all of us...

    I read through a couple of the other comments and at least have somewhat of a better idea about why this could be a bad thing.

    The big one is the fear of a juror researching and coming up with bad information, or taking opinion as fact.

    But then, it seems like the problem is more with a juror not knowing how to do research properly, rather than with research itself. Perhaps a better answer is to let juror's do research, but have the lawyers assist in doing it thoroughly, and making sure to point out what is fact and what is opinion?

     

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  18.  
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    Yogi, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:42am

    Just goes to show

    That the music industry is right.

    If we would have adopted their system of guilty upon accusation, then all these legal problems would not exist.

    Life will be a lot simpler when we just take the word of corporations.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:46am

    Re: Re: Not all of us...

    Too burdensome. You have twelve people going off in dozens of different directions and both attorneys would need to be involved. As if trials were insufficiently expensive.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:47am

    Re: Just goes to show

    "Life will be a lot simpler when we just take the word of corporations."

    Seems like what many people would be doing if they were surfing the net while in a trial...

     

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  21.  
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    Brad Morrison, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:53am

    The world has changed ...

    ... and our laws and social mores have yet to catch up.

    IMHO, the format of a jury trial in a state-owned courtroom where the state prosecutes suits under state (or city/county/federal, state is used in the generic sense here) law is hundreds of years old.

    The longer we put off reform to accommodate new technology, the more crap like this we'll see. The laws are, quite simply, antiquated.

    Beware of corporate influence in these new laws.

     

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  22.  
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    NullOp, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:54am

    The Net

    YES, it is reasonable to require jurors NOT to friend other jurors DURING a trial. It should be made a crime, punishable by at least a $10,000 fine! Its time to take the process by balls!!!

    Research terms on the internet? Absolutely! Lawyers have screwed up and deliberately obscured legal definitions, to their monetary benefit btw, to the point where this is absolutely necessary for the layman.

     

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    Gunnar (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 7:55am

    Re:

    I just served on a jury in Pa. We were allowed to ask basic questions, such as anything that would require a quick check on Wikipedia.

    As for the jurors friending each other. We were told not to talk to each other at the start, but then they put 300 of us in a room and the chatter never died down.

     

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  24.  
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    Chris Becke, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 8:00am

    Techdirt had an article about the internet making people stupid...

    Techdirt had an article about the internet making people stupid a long time ago. And the gist of the article was it wasn't really a bad thing: Its more of an optimization: when we find a tool that helps us do something that was previously hard to do, we ... move on from doing the hard thing.

    The danger then with the existing rules is, people who are used to using the internet as a knowledge-base are going to be at a at least temporary cognitive disadvantage when their research tools are limited or removed.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 8:22am

    Re: The world has changed ...

    You obviously did not read a single comment before yours. There are lots of reasons to not permit use of "new" technology (such as newspapers, magazines, radio) in the courtroom, for reasons that include protection of the rights of the accused.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 8:24am

    Re: Techdirt had an article about the internet making people stupid...

    I suggest that those people are cognitively disadvantaged with or without the internet.

     

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  27.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 8:25am

    Re: Techdirt had an article about the internet making people stupid...

    I see you have argued AGAINST having such tools in the courtroom. As noted previously, the whole point is that jurors are not supposed to be doing research while in the courtroom since there is no guarantee that they will interpret what they learn within the context of the case. Such research could be highly prejudicial.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 8:27am

    Re: Re: Techdirt had an article about the internet making people stupid...

    Not to mention that such "research," if discovered, will lead to a mistrial a good chunk of the time, probably the vast majority of the time.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 8:41am

    How about pre-knowledge

    How is looking up information, or increasing you knowledge dangerous. It may not work to one side or the other, but in the context of timing, what if someone had done research on say a forensic technic before the trial started, should they exclude that from their thoughts and only use what was presented, hardly doable. And when they discuss, should they also exclude any knowledge they may have on a subject that was not presented to the jury on any subject?

    I would agree that they should not look at opinions about the trial, or those items, but how is looking at wiki, or even a dead tree version encyclopedia to better understand a term or bit of information doing the justice system wrong?

    Are we only looking at using blank morality difference engines, loaded with only the information from the prosecution/defense/judge, or are we wanting to use a jury of peers, people whom have real world experience and knowledge....

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 8:58am

    Clueless

    I have to say that I'm stunned by your lack of understanding of how the Jury system works in this country. A jury is supposed to base their decision on the information presented in court. They are specifically prohibited from doing research on their own or visiting the scene. They are not even allowed to discuss the case outside of the jury room. The reson for this is so that people get a fair trial. According to you, this should all be changed because it's inconvenient. People should be sent to prison or put to death based on popluar opinion and misinformation.

    Are you retarded?

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:07am

    Re: How about pre-knowledge

    I would have thought that after all the posts above you would have figured this out. Let me try...

    A key piece of evidence is based on DNA. So a juror goes out and search DNA, and the first site the juror sees is a site operated by a luddite who has at most a vague understanding of DNA testing. This individual stresses the miniscule error rate, using inflammatory words and quoting dubious sources regarding the supposed "problems" with DNA testing.

    The juror then starts talking with other jurors about how awful DNA testing is and that at least one court (a little podunk court located in backwater, USA) found "significant issues" with DNA testing. Suddenly, the key piece of evidence in a rape-murder trial is thrown out and an individual who was clearly guilty, if the DNA evidence is to be believed, is found innocent.

    Harmless researching for "facts"? Please. These are real people who have issues understanding how a light bulb works (my daughter is extremely computer savvy, but also has the vaguest clue as to where electricity comes from and how light comes out of a light bulb) - even if they are computer literate.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:09am

    Re: Clueless

    "They are specifically prohibited from doing research on their own or visiting the scene."

    Your hateful language aside, juries do occasionally visit the scene of the crime....

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:09am

    Re: How about pre-knowledge

    You will note that there is a process for selecting juries. If someone has "real world experience and knowledge" that either of the attorneys think will be prejudicial to the case, the juror with "real world experience and knowledge" will NOT be permitted to sit on the juror for fear of the prejudices that juror brings.

     

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  34.  
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    Coughing Monkey (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:09am

    Re: Can't Stop the Message

    perhaps you should pass this tidbit of intel along to those who paid these speakers to speak at this grad ceremony. I 'm sure they would be happy to spend it on something that would actually be appreciated.
    It's just a thought. But isn't that what matters?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:11am

    Re: Re: Clueless

    With both attorneys present.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:13am

    Re: Can't Stop the Message

    It is too bad that we are still subjected to the arrogance of those who think they know it all as we peruse comments.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:13am

    Re: Clueless

    I have to say that I'm stunned by your lack of understanding of how the Jury system works in this country.

    Which part of "we all understand the reasons why the current system wants to limit things to just what's said in the courtroom" did you miss?

    They are specifically prohibited from doing research on their own or visiting the scene. They are not even allowed to discuss the case outside of the jury room.

    Yes, that's what I said. Why do you call me retarded and then ask me if I know what I said in the post?

    Did you read the post?

    According to you, this should all be changed because it's inconvenient.

    I said nothing about convenience.

    I have to admit I'm rather taken aback by the number of people in this thread who didn't seem to read what I wrote and just want to attack me for daring to suggest that perhaps the system needs to change.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:14am

    I don't know, it depends what they are looking up. If I'm sitting on a jury trial that deals with lets say, stock manipulation. I would very much like to go look up some information on how the hell the stock system works. I have no understanding of it beyond the hope that the people I put in charge managing mine did the right voodoo rituals to make it go up in value. I don't necessarily want or need to lookup anything on this case, nor anything on the law governing this case. But I'd definitely want at least a cliff notes version of how the system works in the first place so I have some context to put the information the lawyers are giving me in.

     

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    Coughing Monkey (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: Can't Stop the Message

    oh just stfu

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:19am

    Re: Re: Clueless

    I read what you said. You asked a question.

    I think many (perhaps not all, but many) of the responses are discussing your question. Yes, a few are "attacking" you, but most are not.

    For those interested in keeping juries sufficiently unbiased to prevent (more frequent) mistrials, the answer is that they are unable to think of a way.

    For those who apparently do not know what a mistrial is, or how serious a jury can be prejudiced by an opinion are misinformation, the answer seems to be "at least we don't have to listen to two people in suits and an old guy behind a big desk because they are boring."

    I think you have plenty of good answers and discussion to your question. Ignore the attacks and focus on those with a supported viewpoint.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:22am

    Re:

    You can ask for that information from the judge, who will then determine the relevance of the question and work with you to determine the value the information will have to the case at hand. If the information would be useful, you can count on a presentation. However, this needs done within the trial system, not ex parte.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:23am

    Re: Re: Re: Can't Stop the Message

    Ummm...I was not responding to you, so you can take your hateful language somewhere else. Mike is right, some people fail to read...

     

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    TheStupidOne, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:26am

    Re:

    I'll confess to not reading the article, but if they were just "using Wikipedia to look up some terms" then I don't see the problem. If it is just definitions that they are after that should be allowed. The lawyers might not think that they need to say what something means because they assume it is just known by everybody.

    I can understand looking up details of a case online being forbidden, but just the meaning of terms, come on.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:33am

    Re: Re: Re: Clueless

    "With both attorneys present."

    True. I just wasn't sure if you were intimating that they never went, since the comment was fairly general...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:34am

    You jumped the shark with this one.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:34am

    Re: Re: Clueless

    "I have to admit I'm rather taken aback by the number of people in this thread who didn't seem to read what I wrote and just want to attack me for daring to suggest that perhaps the system needs to change."

    Shut up, doo doo head!

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:39am

    If jurors are not allowed to genuinely understand the evidence before them, I wonder what moderately educated individuals (who have already "done the research") are supposed to do with their brains? They are told to "ignore" such things, but how does one "ignore" one's life experience? If a judge tells you that a speeding car will not injure a person it strikes, are we to accept his word above our own knowledge? Maybe only twenty-somethings should be allowed on panels?

     

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    DMNTD, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:56am

    blah

    Perhaps the fact that "law" is ingrained into the lives of any people under a government is why a lot of you think that if there was no "specific" law on murder everyone would want to murder..that is just extreme thinking. People want to live and be left alone and people want to look information up when they want its called free will.

    I don't like the jury system so you can imagine how easy it was not to be part of the jury when "my turn rolled around without my acknowledgment" but that's just HOW it works right? I think its a bit weird to friend people but its not unbelievable because they are in a hostile environment and that's natural human desire in such environments. Bottom line ALL of this stuff was made up without me entirely..the system..the rules..the laws..so honestly I don't see where anybody in my position should just except it, No I don't care how the jury system works cause the jury system cares not, for us. Its easy to denounce and turn things into a cold-dead-system and believe there is no nature involved with human beings, good luck with that.

     

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  49.  
    identicon
    Anonymous1, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:57am

    Mike,are you THAT dense?!! The jurors can't communicate about the trial. Even if they're not sequestered. So friending someone who is a complete stranger is not only odd, it's patently stupid. It is a forum that allows communication, just like a phone, or anything else. It shouldn't be treated differently because of "how normal" or some such nonesense, it is. Obviously sharing a relationship with the person on the case could NEVER influence you feeling you need to vote the same way right? Are you that dense? There's also the practical reason-the court is then put in the position of having to monitor the jury members comments. So now the court has to babysit during a trial for the sake of the juror's social life? It's a mandated community service, not a friend finding service. I read your post. IT MAKES ZERO LOGICAL SENSE.

     

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  50.  
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    Liquid (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 9:59am

    Re: Re:

    Problem with look at Wikipedia for answers on things is that it's not all 100% correct. I can create a wiki page on a topic, subject, person, or idea. I can write down all the information that I know of, or gleaned off other sources. Some of the information maybe true, and some of it may not. If you aren't a 100% knowledgeable to know exactly what is fact, and what is fiction in a Wiki article you can take what is said as complete fact. You don't know if that that is wright or wrong at that point, and you could be lead to believe something is when it isn't. If that makes any sense.

    It's almost like those Holiday Inn commercials. The guy/woman steps in does something completely awesome, and then gets asked if they are. They respond with "No, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night". Same with a Wiki page you know, but not really.

    Which is why I can see a limit on what a juror can do during a trial. Personally if someone needs a clarification on a term, or need to know the definition of something they should use an encyclopedia or a dictionary. Something done by an expert in what ever they are asking about. Not what some random joe blow can write in a wiki page, or any web source.

     

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  51.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:01am

    Re:

    You are not supposed to ignore your life experience, however you are not supposed to consider materials not admitted as evidence. There are items that could tip the decision of the jury that may not be allowed because of improper handling or other legal reasons and it is easier for the jury to disregard them if they don't know about them.

     

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  52.  
    identicon
    Anonymous1, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:01am

    So it should be no surprise that some jurors would choose to quickly friend each other. It's hard to see how that would make the results of the jury verdict suspect, however.


    Let me get you some glasses...

     

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  53.  
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    Liquid (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:04am

    Re:

    That is why they present expert testimony during a trial.

     

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  54.  
    identicon
    Anonymous1, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:08am

    I have to admit I'm rather taken aback by the number of people in this thread who didn't seem to read what I wrote and just want to attack me for daring to suggest that perhaps the system needs to change...

    @Mike Masnick: Taken aback? You suggested the system might need changing because some jurors took inappropirate action, but it involved technology so you must defend it right?! You didn't suggest. You said you found it "hard to see"!!! Sorry, you suggested a stupid idea, and got slammed for it. Nice attempted save.

     

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  55.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:29am

    Re: Re:

    Go back and read the comment regarding DNA...then extrapolate to any "fact" or "definition" you can conceive.

     

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  56.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:31am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Clueless

    lol...Different AC. The other AC DID kinda imply they never went.

     

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  57.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:33am

    Re:

    Did you read the other posts? Like the one where jurors are asked questions regarding their life experience? Like the one where jurors are rejected if they "know too much" because it might prejudice them?

    Just FYI: I am a "techie" and have been told that I will never serve on a jury because engineers are too analytical and put excessive weight on what they know and the facts. You think they want someone on the jury who is going to do a lot of research while the case is active? They would probably rather have the engineer...

     

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  58.  
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    Jimr (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:41am

    Just allow the jury to access court provide internet connect computer where they are clearly told ever action done on them will be provided to the prosecutor and defense and Judge and be part of the form record of the court process.
    Blocking VPN or other tunneling techniques would encourage the jury to use the computers wisely.
    Let them 'Friend' each other - just have it all recorded so all parties can examine it for faults. In fact create a facebook group for the trail where all the witness, accused, and court staff MUST all join with the Jury.

    Yeah mis-trials will be up 1000% but in some countries internet access is a basic human right.

    The lesson here is to know where to draw the line. Until that line is known for sure it best to rely upon what you know - lock up the jury and set the guild free right?

     

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  59.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:44am

    Re: Re:

    "You are not supposed to ignore your life experience, however you are not supposed to consider materials not admitted as evidence."

    The second half of that sentence negates the first since your life experience isn't entered into evidence, no? For example, if prosecution submits evidence which I know to be junk, what then? Do I reject it or do I pretend to be an ignoramus and accept it? Why should an ignorant person just accept as true whatever he sees?

     

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  60.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:49am

    I think a more important point is that jurors have NEVER depended solely upon what jurors tell them. I follow a number of legal blogs (while not being a legal professional myself) and so I have an informed (somewhat) opinion on a number of controversial legal issues that could come up during a trial. If a lawyer is working against that opinion, (s)he will have to do a lot more work to convince me than if I did not have previous access to those blogs etc... Furthermore, at this point, I have started considering that my personal knowledge is not limited to what is stored in my head, but also includes anything I can Google or Wiki in under 2 minutes. (Though that may mean that I am mostly knowledgeable about pornography) As a result, I find being cut from those artificially to be quite ludicrous. Some adaptation is necessary, but banning looking up the case is probably not the answer. Allowing jurors to ask questions, or bring up points that could then later be addressed according to the rules of evidence seems to be the most logical choice.

     

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  61.  
    identicon
    known coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:57am

    Re: Re: Clueless

    “ . . . have to admit I'm rather taken aback by the number of people in this thread who didn't seem to read what I wrote and just want to attack me for daring to suggest that perhaps the system needs to change.”


    we are not attacking you, we are pointing out that sometimes the ability to change things does not make changing things the right decision. In this case I think the system of not allowing individual research via internet by jurors is a well thought out one. You feel differently. I would think that is the point of the site is to exchange different views on the effects of emerging technologies on society and the culture.


    Doo doo head

     

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  62.  
    identicon
    Tyanna, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 10:57am

    Re:

    This is true, but I feel it shows a need that is lacking. Perhaps it's time for a site to be created for jurors while on jury duty so that they can look up definitions to terms or practices they don't understand.

    The problem isn't that the jurors want to be informed, it's that there isn't a sanctioned place where they can do research.

     

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  63.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 11:02am

    Re: Re:

    "Like the one where jurors are asked questions regarding their life experience? Like the one where jurors are rejected if they "know too much" because it might prejudice them?"

    Voir dire barely scratches the surface -- if the case involves chemical evidence, for example, there is no time to exhaustively interrogate each and every prospective juror wrt to their knowledge of chemistry. Most of the time, they won't even ask. Lawyers tend to punch down into details they understand and ignore ones they don't. I'll address this below. You take for granted how much of your interpretation of the world depends on your past "research."

    "Just FYI: I am a "techie" and have been told that I will never serve on a jury because engineers are too analytical and put excessive weight on what they know and the facts."

    Do not get your hopes up -- once you've told a lawyer that you're an engineer, the occupational side of the voir dire will end because lawyers generally know nothing about science and engineering, and they figure your objectivity will play into their favor. However, tell them you've so much as lived in a dumpster behind a police station or courthouse and you will get the third-degree before they invariably dismiss you.

     

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  64.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 11:14am

    Re: Re: Re: Clueless

    we are not attacking you, we are pointing out that sometimes the ability to change things does not make changing things the right decision.

    No, that's fine. Those comments I'm fine with. It's the ones that are personally insulting ("what are you, retarded?") and then acting as if I didn't even acknowledge why the current system is the way it is. I did.

    I'm all for discussing it, and I understand the arguments on either side. But I'm amazed that there aren't many posts that are actually explaining why the old way makes sense. They just repeat the same point over, rather than why it makes sense.

     

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  65.  
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    Almost Anonymous (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 11:30am

    Re:

    I am constantly confounded with the way some people's minds work (or don't work).

    It seems to me that Mike is pointing out a simple fact: The reality of this situation is that now there are extremely fast and easy tools for people to communicate and research, and people *are* going to do it. No amount of admonition is going to change that, and I'll go a step farther and say that it would probably take some pretty draconian (yay 100 points!) threats of punishment to reduce it! Solitary confinement is truly the only way to keep people from talking and doing their own research.

    It's kind of like yelling at the river to stop, yell all you want, but it's not going to stop.

    By the way, an adequate definition of "stupid and dense" might be "someone who rails against reality". That's you, AC.

     

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  66.  
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    Will (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 11:48am

    Re: Re: Can't Stop the Message

    When I graduated from high school (only like 7 months ago) just about everyone said the graduation ceremony was for the families of those graduating. Many of us were part of it just to make our families happy. The school doesn't only pay for the people to come in and talk for the students, it is for the whole atmosphere of the ceremony.

     

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  67.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 11:49am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Depends on the trial; i.e., facts and circumstances.

     

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  68.  
    identicon
    Anonymous1, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:02pm

    @Mike Masnick: Apparently you are at least a little dense. I like this blog, and I've done more than my fair share of ranting but please. You seem to completely contradict yourself. You said "But I'm amazed that there aren't many posts that are actually explaining why the old way makes sense." FOLLOWED BY: "acting as if I didn't even acknowledge why the current system is the way it is. I did."

    So if you yourself acknowledge why the current system works the way it does, why should the conversation focus on that? It shouldn't. If you acknowledge why the current system works (implying that it does, which it does), then discussing "why it (the current system) makes sense is completely redundant. Generally speaking, it is YOUR job to explain to US (those in agreement with the current system) why your NEW WAY makes sense. Get it? The person recommending, suggesting, or defending the new system has to both point out the flaws in the old system, and list the benefits of the new system. You have done neither. That's pretty basic level logic-debate format.

    @Will: You said "No amount of admonition is going to change that". I say, BS. Admonition can, does, and will continue to change that. It won't stop it from occuring, but it happens all the time that jurors will be prevented from rendering judgement if they take the steps sited in the article.

     

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  69.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:04pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    As a matter of fact your life experience is "entered as evidence". You are asked questions such as "Are any of your relatives police?" or "Have you ever had a bad experience with a finance company?" If your life experience would cause you to lean to would side or the other attorneys for either the plaintiff or defense can remove you. In criminal cases the States attorney has an unlimited number of such challenges and there was a lawsuit over removeing people for being black or minority.

     

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  70.  
    icon
    Alan Gerow (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:09pm

    Re:

    This doesn't take into account juror responsibilities such as "jury nullification" where jurors have a right to be able to challenge the validity of the law in general. This cannot be done in our current system since judges and prosecutors make it nearly impossible through threats of contempt of court actions to even let a jury know of their constitutional right of jury nullification - thus, no information will be presented in a case that challenges the very validity of the law in question.

    Thus, jurors doing their due diligence and investigating on their own should be protected so that they may properly conduct their rights as jurors.

    In addition, should a juror be required to forget all previous knowledge on a topic? As a tech person, if a prosecutor tells me factually incorrect technical information, am I to purposefully believe wrong information because it was presented as truth in a court of law without proper rebuttal? If I am allowed to rely on previous knowledge, how is this any different than me looking up information as a member of the jury? If I am not allowed to use previous knowledge, then why have a jury at all?

    A judge is supposed to make an unbiased opinion. That is not what a jury is for: a jury is to make an opinion based on community standards weighed against the evidence. The judge represents the law, the jury represents the community. It's a fundamental right in this country to be judged by a jury of your peers if you wish, and not be judged by the letter of the law. Unfortunately, the judges and lawyers in this country have convinced everyone differently.

     

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  71.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Re: Re: The world has changed ...

    No, there are lots of opinions on why to not permit the use of "new" technology.

     

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  72.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:12pm

    Re:

    So if you yourself acknowledge why the current system works the way it does, why should the conversation focus on that? It shouldn't. If you acknowledge why the current system works (implying that it does, which it does), then discussing "why it (the current system) makes sense is completely redundant.

    I didn't say the current system *works*. I said it's understandable WHY it is the way it is. That doesn't mean it works.

     

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  73.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:19pm

    Re: Re: How about pre-knowledge

    And what's to say that someone didn't read up on DNA before and came to those conclusions, then landed on a jury with DNA evidence. Is that juror expected to unlearn everything they know on DNA?

    How is that person's handling of previous DNA knowledge different then a person handling new information about DNA from an out-of-court source at the time of trial? If it's an honor-system style thing where they may know of DNA beforehand but promise to not be swayed, how is that any different than someone gaining new knowledge promising not be swayed? If juror selection is to take out people with previous knowledge, can not juror selection also take out people who will research, because saying you know nothing about DNA is as reliable as saying you won't research, it's all honor system, and the time of learning and technology used are irrelevant.

     

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  74.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:21pm

    Re: Re:

    Next thing you'll be talking about how copyright infringement is as easy as tying one's shoes. Which is why we have to kick these shoe-tying terrorists off of the internet based on some accusations.

    Obviously, if tens of millions of people are breaking a law that hasn't been around that long it makes sense to strengthen that law to try and stop hundreds of millions of people. Makes sense, right?

     

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  75.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:26pm

    Re: Re:

    That's if you trust the judge and lawyers to give you the correct information to begin with.

    Try asking questions as a juror in a tax trial regarding the legality of mandatory tax requirements, and see how far you'll get in getting information.

    Try getting any unbiased information from a judge regarding anything to do with a drug case and the war on drugs or drug laws. You'll get government propaganda approved information.

    Jury nullification is a right that is being stripped away by this very requirement.

     

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  76.  
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    Alan Gerow (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:29pm

    Re: Re:

    ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha

    That's hilarious.

     

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  77.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Re: Re: How about pre-knowledge

    "How is that person's handling of previous DNA knowledge different then a person handling new information about DNA from an out-of-court source at the time of trial?"

    It isn't. What's different is that you cannot cut a man's brain out to make him unlearn something, but you can threaten him to discourage future behavior. The answer is simple practicality; it should be obvious.

    Also, anyone who's sat through voir dire knows how superficial it is, so the "screen them out!" argument won't hold up regardless of how many times it's asserted.

     

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  78.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No amount of research is going to change your relatives or experience with a finance company.

     

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  79.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:40pm

    Re: Re:

    Okay, suppose both sides submit expert testimony -- whom do you believe? Flip a coin?

    "Oh, gee, expert for the defense made a good rebuttal, but he forgot XYZ, oh well, I'll pretend I don't know it either and return a guilty verdict..." Is that how it's supposed to go?

     

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  80.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:41pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Thanks, that helps a lot.

     

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  81.  
    identicon
    Ispep, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 12:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    @JoeNYC - I thought it was the job of the lawyers to convince the jury and not anything from the outside. If the jury is confused about anything then they need to have the foreman seek clarification.

    As for the Facebook Friending thing goes, I can see where that might cause a problem. But only if it's during the actual trial; information about the trial could leak out. If it's after the fact then I don't see a problem.

     

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  82.  
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    Richard (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 1:44pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    they should use an encyclopedia or a dictionary. Something done by an expert in what ever they are asking about. Not what some random joe blow can write in a wiki page

    Except that actually wikipedia is statistically more accurate than the old fashioned encyclopedias written by supposed "experts".

    In my experience from looking up things that I have good direct personal knowledge of Wikipedia is about as good as any other source.

     

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  83.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 15th, 2009 @ 1:49pm

    Tabloid Justice

    yes, we all understand the reasons why the current system wants to limit things to just what's said in the courtroom

    An yet, you're still opposed to it. Tabloid justice, huh?

     

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  84.  
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    Richard (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 1:51pm

    Re: Re: How about pre-knowledge

    It seems to me that this is a recipe for juries being completely ignorant so that the can be swayed by the eloquence of the lawyers.

    Of course they should not be biased about the actual case - but technical knowledge about issues that relate to the case can only be a good thing - since the legal profession seems to be spectacularly ignorant of such things.

     

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  85.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 2:07pm

    Re: Meh

    > if judge and counsel wish to prevent any of this they need only
    > impound the jury.

    The word you're looking for is "sequester", not "impound".

     

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  86.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re:

    > thus, no information will be presented in a case that challenges
    > the very validity of the law in question

    Not sure where you've been but that statement is absolutely untrue. How else do you think we have laws overturned by the courts? Roe v. Wade is a good example. The law itself was challenged as unconstitutional and it was overturned.

     

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  87.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 2:13pm

    Re: Re:

    > jurors doing their due diligence and investigating on their own
    > should be protected so that they may properly conduct their
    > rights as jurors

    Problems occur, however, when evidence is suppressed by the court to protect the rights of the defendant. For example, if the police beat a confession out of someone or search a suspect's house without a warrant, the judge will suppress the confession or any evidence obtained in the illegal search. Then a juror gets on his iPhone and reads a press account of the suppression ruling and tells all the other jurors, "Hey, they didn't tell us this guy confessed already!" Next thing you know the defendant is being convicted based on illegally obtained evidence.

     

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  88.  
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    Chargone (profile), Dec 15th, 2009 @ 3:56pm

    Re: Tabloid Justice

    ... because that Doesn't happen anyway

     

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  89.  
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    Crabby (profile), Dec 16th, 2009 @ 7:42am

    Re: Ummm...no, never...

    "Sometimes people are convicted by the media because the media make inferences and draw conclusions based on limited information, but a jury should never do that."

    So true. The media often give out false information in their wild-eyed race to "inform" us. The snipers in the Washington, DC area a few years back is a good example: according to the media, the shooter *had* to be a white guy driving a white box truck. Wrong on both *facts." But the media was never held accountable for its reckless lies. Any juror reading the paper or watching TV would have been wrongly influenced by those useless media morons.

     

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  90.  
    identicon
    David Rowley, Dec 24th, 2009 @ 8:44pm

    Jurors cause trouble...

    Jurors are supposed to consider only the evidence presented in court and get their explanations only from the court precisely to avoid outside opinions having any effect on the outcome.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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