Juror Using iPhone To Look Up Definition Of 'Prudence' Leads To Mistrial

from the dear-prudence... dept

We've had a number of stories recently about juries getting in trouble for using forbidden technology while on the jury -- and some of our most heated discussions have been over whether or not it makes sense to block these tools from jurors. Of course, for now, the tools are very much blocked, but it certainly doesn't seem to stop anyone from using them. The latest such case involves a juror who used his iPhone to access Encarta to look up the definition of the word "prudence," since the ruling in the case was dependent on whether or not the jury felt the accused had acted with "prudence." While the lower court refused to grant a new trial, the appeals court reversed, noting that "using the smartphone in this way was analogous to using a dictionary, and that conduct has generally been prohibited in juror deliberations." Separately, I have to agree with Evan Brown (who wrote the story linked above about this) in pointing out:
Ed. note: If the jury foreperson was savvy enough to use an iPhone, why on earth was he consulting Encarta? Hello, 1995 called -- it wants its web pages back.
Honestly, I think the last (and perhaps only) time I ran across Encarta it was still in the heady CD-ROM days, and my first reaction on reading this story was to wonder how one used an iPhone to access a CD-ROM.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    blaktron (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 9:36pm

    http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/dictionaryhome.aspx

    thats why.

    Thats where dictionary.msn.com goes to. probably searched dictionary.

     

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  2.  
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    rorybaust (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 9:38pm

    http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/dictionaryhome.aspx

    Its is dictionary on line , a simple search would have found it , not so surprising , if you remember for a lot of people this was the first encyclopedia that they ever used so looking for info

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 9:49pm

    Wow, juror's can't use a dictionary?
    I'm ignorant so I will ask, why is using a dictionary in jury deliberations bad?

     

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  4.  
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    Jay (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 10:19pm

    Is it just me or is it sort of ironic the guy got busted looking up prudence?
    1. having good sense: having good sense in dealing with practical matters 2. carefully considering consequences: using good judgment to consider likely consequences and act accordingly 3. careful in managing resources: careful in managing resources so as to provide for the future

     

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  5.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 10:24pm

    I have to admit my first reaction was: "the real news is that somebody used Encarta"

    But since everyone already beat me to it, I will just say that we probably should just lock jurors in a room with a cell jammer until we figure out a way to deal with this. Such as just allow jurors to use whatever info they want.

     

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  6.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 10:43pm

    "using the smartphone in this way was analogous to using a dictionary, and that conduct has generally been prohibited in juror deliberations."

    Is that really standard protocol? (I genuinely don't know). I suppose you're expected to ask the judge for explanations?

    I just don't see how using a dictionary in a jury room is somehow going to wreck a case for someone. Maybe I'm misunderstanding the quote...?

     

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  7.  
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    Randomguy, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 10:45pm

    Ha

    How iRonic

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 10:46pm

    Re:

    Everything is opposite down the rabbit's hole and in legal fantasy land.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 15th, 2010 @ 10:50pm

    Re: Ha

    It's like when it rains on your wedding day.

     

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  10.  
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    Josh O., Sep 15th, 2010 @ 11:44pm

    Or a free ride and you've already paid.

     

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  11.  
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    PrometheeFeu (profile), Sep 15th, 2010 @ 11:57pm

    Re:

    The whole basis of the adversarial system is that jurors are receiving information that one party or the other considers to be in their advantage. So for instance, the parties both give you their interpretation of what different legal terms are meant to express. So, if you look up a term, depending upon where you look it up the definition may give an advantage to one side or the other. Also, it's relatively easy to not give the jurors a dictionary.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 12:05am

    Re:

    Very simple. Dictionaries define words. These words may mean different things depending on the context. This is especially true with regard to laws. The legal definition of "prudence" is different from the normal dictionary's definition of "prudence".

    Also, jurors are supposed to base their decision on nothing other than the evidence provided during the trial. A dictionary is information other than that provided in the trial.

    If a juror has a question about something then they are supposed to ask the judge for information.

    I'm not entirely sure why this juror did what he did. I mean, it's not like they hide the fact that you're not supposed to look shit up. If it were up to me I'd jam that phone down his throat. I mean, the judge clearly instructed the jury not to do this (as they do with every trial).

     

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  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 12:07am

    Re:

    "Is that really standard protocol? (I genuinely don't know). I suppose you're expected to ask the judge for explanations?"

    Yes and yes.

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 12:08am

    Re:

    The good advice that he just didn't take.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 12:08am

    He should have asked the judge. They are told they may.
    Problem with the legal system is that is uses words know one knows to define other words know one knows.

    If a juror does not understand a word, the jury instructions should be made clearer,

     

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  16.  
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    DelBoy, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 12:50am

    Obvious

    Seems like they need to put a ban on smartphone, phone & that type of technology in the court room.

    I hear that the UK prison system is exploring possibilities of installing jamming equipment in the jails. As mobsters are using mobile phones to run their business from behind bars.

    Similar system could be used in court, Yes? No?

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 1:15am

    it highlights a massive problem with the system and demands overhaul, the legal system uses a definition that is different than the dictionary definition, there should be one standard, seems words mean what the legal system wants them too

     

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  18.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 2:28am

    Re: Re:

    So the deliberations of the jurors must be based soley on the rhetoric of the lawyers, unpolluted by inconvenient facts.

    They say justice is blind - but does it have to be deaf and stupid as well!

     

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  19.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 2:33am

    Re: Re:

    So, if you look up a term, depending upon where you look it up the definition may give an advantage to one side or the other.

    and generally that would be the side that was in the right - obviously that can't be allowed to happen.

    Seriously this is ridiculous. Most of the jurors probably had their own ideas of what "prudence" means - formed long before the trial from outside sources.

    How is that any different from looking the word up? In fact the result of the trial will inevitably depend on such outside influences - because without them the jury wouldn't be able to understand a single word that is said.

     

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  20.  
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    DS, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 2:59am

    Re: Re: Re:

    Understanding how the legal system works fail.

     

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  21.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 3:09am

    The iPhone can't read CDs? Shocking!

     

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  22.  
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    Panda Marketer (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 4:02am

    I agree, the juror didn't act with prudence.


    "The iPhone can't read CDs? Shocking!"

    - I wonder if there's an App for that.

     

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  23.  
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    milrtime83 (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 4:26am

    Re: Obvious

    A cell jammer wouldn't prevent anyone from using a dictionary app or any other app that they already have on their phone.

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 4:48am

    Judges Are Hostile To Juries

    Juries got introduced in the first place because there were judges who would ignore justice and follow their orders. See any tyranny for examples today. Juries were supposed to provide the justice that judges were unwilling to provide. Judges have never forgotten this rebuke. They continually invent new rules to inconvenience juries. There is no problem when a judge uses a dictionary in his chambers when writing a judgement. Likewise, jurors should be allowed access to any sources of information they please. If any privilege is allowed to a judge, the same should be allowed to a jury.

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 4:53am

    Re: Re:

    Thank you for the explanation, although I still find it silly because I believe shame is more harmful than any dictionary could ever be.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 4:57am

    Re:

    now you have me curious in a completely off topic sort of way...

    if the camera is good enough, could you take a picture of the back and get information? i suspect the laser beam is much thinner than a normal picture would give... but it may not be outside the realm of possibility in a few years.

     

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  27.  
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    ComputerAddict (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 5:02am

    I personally would like to see the differences the prosecution vs the defendant for the definition of the word prudence

     

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  28.  
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    Etch, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 5:10am

    Re: Re:

    I still don't understand why you can't look it up in the dictionary, that reasoning seems ridiculous and silly to me!
    Isn't the Judge/Defendant/..etc using the word IN Context?
    And in that case, why aren't they given a Legal Dictionary and allowed to look in that??

    And, what if the other Jurers already walked into this case having already looked up "Prudence" in the dictionary "before" the trial, would they also get dismissed? And if not, why not? The end result is the same, isn't it?!

    And what about knowledgeable Jurors? What if the Juror is just very well read, and knows the dictionary term beforehand? Are they prepared to make that kind of distinction??

    If the Judge was speaking in terms that you didn't understand, would you just admit ignorance and try to do your job as a jury without understanding what is being said? Does that make sense to anyone? And asking the judge is just ridiculous, how would that trial look like if every few minutes a Juror interrupts the judge to ask him about a definition?

    Honestly, I would do the same thing as the Juror! I won't sit there and pretend to understand what is being said, and on top of it all come up with a verdict too?
    Does the law require me to come up with a verdict while I'm blissfully ignorant of what is happening?

    Absolutely Ridiculous!! A Dictionary is common knowledge, its defining words that we use every day in every situation, its not information that can compromise or bias a Jury!

    This law makes no sense!

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 5:17am

    Re:

    Or floppies.

     

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  30.  
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    Jade, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 5:28am

    The real question needs to be "How can someone that doesn't know what the word prudence means make it to the jury?"

     

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  31.  
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    Chucklebutte (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 5:43am

    The hypocrisy of our justice system!

    Ha what a joke! Check this one out, http://www.fresnobee.com/2010/08/11/2037754/judgejuror-e-mail-trial-killer.html#storylink=misearch

    Oh yeah, Judge on jury, emails other judges about the case while he is ON the jury, he even sent one to judge over seeing the case!!!

    Not even a slap on the wrist for the emailing judge, no miss trail, notta!

    What a joke.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 6:02am

    Re: The hypocrisy of our justice system!

    The must have won. If they had of lost I'm sure they would have made a stink about it.

     

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  33.  
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    Schmoo, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 6:25am

    Re:

    > The real question needs to be "How can someone that doesn't know what the word prudence means make it to the jury?"

    I look up words I 'know' all the time - to be sure that the common meaning that I know is actually correct, or to ensure I'm not mistaken when context suggests that there's a subtlety I'm missing. To never feel that need is indicative of arrogance, IMHO.

     

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  34.  
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    Deirdre (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 6:48am

    Massive lack of knowledge about jurisprudence (ha!) and history of juries. Juries in the US/British system developed from both Germanic tribe custom (Anglo Saxon) and Greek custom of using respected citizens as fact finders in legal cases. This evolved into the modern system of the jurer as the trier of fact while the judge deals with the law of the case.

    Each side presents jury instructions including definitions of words that are considered important citing statute or case law in support of the definition desired. The Judge after discussion with both counsel if needed then instructs the jury as to the law of the case that they are to follow.

    A definition from the internet does not take into consideration the fact that many words when used in a legal sense become "terms of art" with specific meanings when used in a case-- hence jury instructions.

    Can't use a dictionary, can't use the internet. Low tech or high tech, it doesn't matter.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 7:01am

    "Juror Using iPhone To Look Up Definition Of 'Prudence' Leads To Mistrial"

    In conclusion, the jurors were too stupid to be worthy of the trial. Or maybe they were so smart that they pretended not to know what prudence means so that they can get out of jury duty.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 7:04am

    Re: Re:

    Ok, I agree, I do this sometimes too.

     

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  37.  
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    average_joe (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 7:05am

    I went on Bing and searched for "prudence." The first link was to Encarta. No surprise there.

    I do love that Internet Cases blog, though! Always good stuff on there.

    http://blog.internetcases.com/

     

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  38.  
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    Evan Brown (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 8:05am

    Re:

    Thanks Joe.

     

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  39.  
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    Chuck Norris' Enemy (deceased) (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 8:22am

    Re:

    Plop 'prudence' into Google and Encarta is nowhere to be found...just like in 1996.

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 9:22am

    There needs to be a "laymen's" Law. One Document spelled out in official terminology and another equally official Document spelled out so a 3 year old understands it. I know the powers that be are unwilling to do the latter, what government wants am informed knowledgeable populace?

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 10:19am

    Re: Re:

    Thanks for the answers, folks. And sorry for repeating the question - the post a few above mine wasn't visible at the time of my posting.

     

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  42.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 10:21am

    Re:

    Might they go to a dictionary to settle it? ;)

     

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  43.  
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    MrBeck (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 10:22am

    "savvy enough to use an iPhone"

    Huh? The whole UI concept of an iPhone is that any idiot can use one. Just read the original reviews, filled with descriptions of how you don't need manuals or anything, just pick it up and use it. And descriptions of how other smartphones are so complicated. If iPhones are now considered complicated the whooshing sound you hear the sound of the national IQ in freefall.

     

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  44.  
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    Jeremy7600 (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 10:34am

    Re:

    And no wonder Bing's market share is only 3%. (give or take 0.5%)

     

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  45.  
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    Jeremy7600 (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 10:35am

    Re: Re:

     

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  46.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 2:26pm

    Re: Re:

    I haven't served on a Jury, but do they provide a legal dictionary?

    I guess I picture an ideal scenario where there is a Star-Trek computer in the Jury deliberation room, where you can ask it questions and it can only respond in a way of the court's satisfaction, and all computing devices can then be barred.

    Since courts and attorneys and judges use a language that is not in general public use, is this reasonable to ask a judge for a definition of every legal word?

     

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  47.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 2:30pm

    Re: Re:

    But soon it will be able to print CD's, floppies, and Livers, or so Jobs says.

     

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  48.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 5:20pm

    Re:

    'The real question needs to be "How can someone that doesn't know what the word prudence means make it to the jury?" '

    But.. but.. That's the entire point of the US "Jury Selection Process"! The most reliable way to get out of jury service is to demonstrate that you're educated and know something about the matter under consideration.

    That, or find some way to mention "jury nullification", though this can get you into trouble.

     

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  49.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 16th, 2010 @ 8:51pm

    Re:

    "I went on Bing and searched for "prudence." The first link was to Encarta."

    If Google were to do that M$ would demand that some AG hit them up for antitrust violations.

     

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  50.  
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    ltlw0lf (profile), Sep 16th, 2010 @ 9:19pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    No, I don't think he failed... I think he now understands how the legal system fails. They usually don't like smart people who use facts to make decisions or want to get as much information they can before making a decision and prefer people who make decisions based on emotion.

    I am so tired of getting kicked off the jury panel during the voir dire process that I started asking the jury commissioner if they could just stop calling me in if they ask me to come in 20 times in a row and I never get on a panel. I am at 23 times called, and have never been a juror on a trial (I was an alternate once, but that was because they ran out of challenges and figured as an alternate, I'd never get a chance to deliberate, and they were correct.)

     

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  51.  
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    Chucklebutte (profile), Sep 17th, 2010 @ 8:02am

    Re: Re: The hypocrisy of our justice system!

    No they lost, that guy is gonna spend life in prison now.

    They made a huge stink about this and court found the judge of doing no wrong doing and things just go back to normal in la la land, while this guy sits and rots in prison for a crime he may or may not have committed, it is really hard to be sure being that he didnt get a fair trial.

     

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


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