California Wants To Put Jurors In Jail For Tweeting About Trial

from the overkill dept

We've seen a few stories over the years about jurors tweeting or otherwise discussing trials via social media. Obviously, the courts don't like that, as they usually have bans on discussing cases publicly while they're ongoing. However, in a culture of sharing all sorts of things going on in one's life, it's difficult for some people to shut off. And, to be clear, I'm not entirely sure why it's so bad to talk about a case, in general. I can understand specific instances, based on what you're talking about, but an overall ban just seems unreasonable and unworkable. However, as the courts and governments deal with this issue, we're going to see more overreactions like the following.

California has now passed a law that will allow it to put people in jail for tweeting about a case as a juror. As that link explains, courts already have broad powers to penalize jurors who disobey court rules, including "improper" conduct or "interfering" with a trial. Thus, as Eric Johnson notes:
The current law seems to cover everything of substance. The only thing the new provision does that I can see is make it a jailable offense to use the internet in such a way that is neither improper nor interfering. I guess I donít understand why we would want to jail jurors under such circumstances.
It seems like a typical grandstanding situation, where a politician feels the need to "do something" about an issue that's been reported on in the press, without realizing nothing needs to be done.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:37am

    :eyeroll:

    Grandstanding politicians... Nothing new then?
    In other news, fire is hot, water is wet, sky is blue. Film at 11.

     

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  2. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:39am

    Another case of "Mike doesn't get it".

    Mike, if you are a juror, you should not talk about the case you are sitting for. End. Amongst other things, it's respect for the system, and respect for the verdict to come.

    I am amazed you don't get it. Perhaps if there was a piracy angle or some way to rag on about marginal costs, you might get it. But here, well, you are missing the obvious.

     

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  3.  
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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:46am

    Re:

    I think it is pretty clear that Mike "gets it"

    He states pretty clearly that current law is enough to cover and punish this behavior without jailing the juror.

     

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    E. Zachary Knight (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:47am

    This is like all those texting and driving laws. We already have laws about distracted driving, no need to get into specifics.

     

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    jimbo, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 11:51am

    i find it so strange how politicians will do almost anything to make it look like they are doing 'something' whilst in office. the fact that almost always what they do is a complete farce seems to be irrelevant. surely they must have more important things to do than get members of the public that are 'doing their duty' by appearing as jurors, threatened with jail time?

     

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  6.  
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    Matthew (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:01pm

    I must admit...

    I must admit, i may not be convinced that we need a new law to handle this, and i would want protections in place to make sure a petty judge didn't abuse it, but i have no qualms with the basic idea of putting a juror in jail for a short stint if they go public with the details about an ongoing case. Let them tweet/blog/facebook it after the fact, but not during.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:01pm

    Re:

    Another case of "Mike doesn't get it".

    Mike, if you are a juror, you should not talk about the case you are sitting for. End. Amongst other things, it's respect for the system, and respect for the verdict to come.

    I am amazed you don't get it. Perhaps if there was a piracy angle or some way to rag on about marginal costs, you might get it. But here, well, you are missing the obvious.


    I think Mike's positions on things are easily understood as being the result of his general distrust and dislike of authority.

     

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  8.  
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    out_of_the_blue, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:03pm

    Good golly, Mike. It's an old standard merely clarified.

    For one who complains often that laws aren't updated, when they are, you complain too.

    "And, to be clear, I'm not entirely sure why it's so bad to talk about a case, in general."
    THEN PLEASE DON'T CONTRADICT THOSE WHO DO.

     

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  9.  
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    Atkray (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:06pm

    Re:

    I'm glad it's Friday, you need a couple days to rest and come up with something new.

     

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  10.  
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    ChurchHatesTucker (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:08pm

    Re:

    You missed it yourself. Mike's telling people how to get out of jury duty.

    Mike, why do you hate America?

     

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  11.  
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    Aaron *Head* Moss (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:09pm

    Re:

    Normally I think Anonymous Coward is well, an Anonymous Coward and a bit of an idiot, but in this case, I have to agree with him/her/it/whatever....

    From reading what Mike wrote, it seems he doesn't get it.

    If a judge says don't talk about the case, then don't talk, tweet, blog or anything else....

    Now, I'm not sure if the current system incorporates tweeting that well, so the law may need to be changed/updated, but based on "However, in a culture of sharing all sorts of things going on in one's life, it's difficult for some people to shut off. And, to be clear, I'm not entirely sure why it's so bad to talk about a case, in general.", it does seem as if Mike doesn't get it.

    Of course I could be wrong, but I doubt it... 8)

     

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  12.  
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    Atkray (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:09pm

    I for one will sleep better

    It brings me great comfort knowing that our overcrowded jails will be able to release some citizens to make room for these criminals who do not respect our judicial system.

     

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    Bill (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:12pm

    Jurors are not to talk about the trial so there is no outside interference. There are 13-14 people in the jury (including alternates) and all the information about the case is supposed to be delivered by the lawyers and only in the courts controlled setting. No one wants Jurors getting there information from TMZ or from gossiping with there friends.

     

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  14.  
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    Boojum, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:13pm

    Titles a bit innacurate

    Something I've noticed for a while is how prejudicial the titles are for these articles. Wouldn't it be more accurate to say:
    "California wants to stop jurors from tweeting about Trials."
    or even
    "California adds jailtime to Jury Tweeters penalties"

    Honestly, with our current prison population, you can bet California doesn't want to put people in jail... not when the jails are so full that they are letting people go early. What California does want, however, is for people to not break the law... and sometimes that does mean putting people in Jail.

     

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    Matthew (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:13pm

    Re: Good golly, Mike. It's an old standard merely clarified.

    People should always be free to raise concerns about something even if they're not absolutely sure it's bad. That's one of the best ways to promote discussion and ultimately come to a conclusion.

    A better use of your time and effort would be explaining why you think it is bad. Right now you just seem to be a hater who is determined to disagree with anything posted here, thus making it very easy for people to dismiss you as irrelevant to the discussion.

     

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  16.  
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    NullOp, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:28pm

    Devices

    If the courts had any nads at all they would confiscate ALL the phones, tablets, whatever upon being picked for a jury. NO EXCEPTIONS!

     

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  17.  
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    AJ, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:34pm

    Re: Re: Good golly, Mike. It's an old standard merely clarified.

    I don't think I've ever heard someone calling someone else a troll so eloquently. I applaud you sir!

     

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  18.  
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    Boojum, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:35pm

    Recent Tweet related Mistrials

    A quick google search on "jury mistrial tweet" reveals the following on the first two pages:

    March 2009, Arkansas court overturns 12.6 million dollar judgement because a juror used Twitter to send updates.
    March 2009, Defense lawers in Vincent Fumo's corruption trial demanded mistrial because juror posted updates to Twitter and Facebook about the case.
    January 2011, Murder trial of Lamont Cherry declared mistrial because a juror tweeted about the case.
    May 2011, Murder trial of Casey Anthony ruled mistrial because a juror tweeted about the case.

    I suspect other states will begin increasing penalties or taking away devices.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:47pm

    Re: Titles a bit innacurate

    You would think that....if you were completely out of touch with reality. If you think they actually want less people in the jails then why is everything a crime? And if the idea is for the government to help people why are they effectively making it easier to fuck peoples lives up, it's pretty obvious that if u go to jail you are pretty much fucked for life, so why is it that everyone wants every teenage vandal and tweeter to go to jail? We have enough people without ways to support themselves without making every tweeter a convict. Unless the point is to make enough people convicts so that elections really can be bought wholesale...

     

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  20.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Re: Titles a bit innacurate

    When done properly, an oppressed populace feels privileged in their oppressed position.

     

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  21.  
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    Simple Mind (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 12:49pm

    Re: Titles a bit innacurate

    Private prisons are big business in CA. With an ailing economy, CA wants to put everyone in jail.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:01pm

    Re: Devices

    That might be rather difficult since for a relatively small amount I can walk into a big box store and pick up a web enabled phone for $100 or so. Also are they going to come over to the juror's house and confiscate all computers from the home?

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Howard, Cowering, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:03pm

    Re: Re:#7 AC

    I think Mike's positions on things are easily understood as being the result of his general distrust and dislike of overreaching authority.

    FTFY

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:03pm

    Re:

    How would you feel if it was only one way communication? i.e. the juror posting things like 'I wish the DA would address the defense point about X', but they couldn't get outside responses (except from the appropriate court litigants).

     

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  25.  
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    Boojum, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:08pm

    Re: Re: Titles a bit innacurate

    Sorry, I don't agree. Things are crimes because someone (government/business/population) wants someone to stop doing something. While the prison system in California may be big business for the company that runs it, they don't have much input into what laws are made.

    All of which has no bearing on this particular article. It's already against the law in California to ignore a judges order to not talk about a case. This adds a penalty of jailtime.

    If people are ignoring court orders to not tweet, and this is resulting in mistrials, then I don't see they have a lot of options on how to stop it. Either they increase the penalties for doing it, enforce it through confiscation and monitoring, or make it lawful for jurors to talk with others about the trial. that last I don't see happening since it is standard throughout the country that jurors can't talk about cases.

     

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  26.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re:

    Yeah, it's obviously Friday. I'd know that just because he put out a typical 'Friday article'.

     

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  27.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:20pm

    Re: Re:

    Don't doubt it, you are wrong.

    No one disagreed that you should follow the judge's orders. If he says don't talk about it, then don't. That is simple, just as you say. That part was covered in the laws already in place before this new one. This new one doesn't really add anything of value that wasn't already there. What Mike seems to not "get" is why taxpayer money and elected officials' time needed to be wasted to make a new law that covers what an old one already did. I don't get that either. I'm sure he understands that it's important to follow a judge's orders, but from that sentence in your quote, it's clear to me that he simply isn't sure why the judge would need to order you to not talk about a case...not that he isn't sure why you should have to listen to him, like you seem to think.

     

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  28.  
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    Boojum, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:26pm

    Re: Re: Titles a bit innacurate

    I don't see the correlation between taking people who pay taxes and putting them in jail where they don't pay taxes as a way to improve the economy in California. For the prisons to get more money, they have to get it from the government. For the government to get more money, they have to get it from taxes.. which they are unable to increase in California (as the past few years have shown.) or by cutting costs in other places.

    Sorry, your point is unconvincing.

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:45pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    The need for new laws is often as a result of someone doing something stupid, or just not getting it (like Mike might do).

    If you are told not to communicate with people about the case, the smart ones amongst us would understand that it means all communications. Other people may take that only as talking in person, example. This law just adds clarity to a situation that people might not understand.

    If people feel an overwhelming urge to share every sniffle and bowel movement of their life, the law has to be adjusted to make sure they understand what the restrictions really are.

    It's examples like this that prove that Mike just doesn't get it.

     

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  30.  
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    Old Fool (profile), Aug 26th, 2011 @ 1:58pm

    Put em in prison!

    I love freedom of speech, and I love democracy.

    But jurors really should not be speaking about their experiences to anyone. Otherwise 'Innocent till proven guilty' goes out of the window.

    I have always thought jurors should be locked away for the duration of any trial.

     

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  31.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Good golly, Mike. It's an old standard merely clarified.

    For one who complains often that laws aren't updated, when they are, you complain too.

    "And, to be clear, I'm not entirely sure why it's so bad to talk about a case, in general."
    THEN PLEASE DON'T CONTRADICT THOSE WHO DO.


    Mike will, of course, complain no matter what. I agree with you that if Mike is "not entirely sure why it's so bad," then perhaps he should do some research into the matter. Once he understands the arguments, then he can tell us why it's not so bad, which is obviously what he thinks. But that would take work.

    The beauty of working backwards is that all that pesky research becomes unnecessary.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 2:12pm

    Re: Re: Re: Titles a bit innacurate

    I agree with you, but I don't think jail time is warranted here. The people involved are likely functional enough that they don't need to be removed from society. Increasing the fee for causing a mistrial in this manner to a truly prohibitive amount ($5000? more?) would probably suffice.

     

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  33.  
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    No Way Jose, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 2:23pm

    Re: "jurors s/b locked away for duration of any trial"

    Locked away for the duration of any trial? Get Real! Remember the trail some years back in California that lasted 5 YEARS? Turns out that those charged were found innocent (this involved a day care facility and stories coaxed from preschool children by the authorities). It turned out to be nothing at all.. Once I was screened a possible jury lasting six months (we were told in advance of the probably trial length), but by telling the truth, I was dismissed. I had a negative opinion about the plaintiff - a well-known corporation, and said so. No way am I going to "jail" to serve a broken system (Speedy trial... What speedy trial?) IMHO, any trial lasting more than a week s/b adjudicated by members of the legal community (God knows, there are enough of them.)

     

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  34.  
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    Boojum, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 2:26pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Titles a bit innacurate

    I agree that increasing the fee for causing a mistrial by tweeting/talking about it could also have the desired effect of reducing people tweeting from the Jury provided there already isn't a stiff penalty.

    Of course, by my reading of whats going on the law doesn't mandate jail time, it allows the court to impose jail time if it things it's appropriate. Then again, I'm not sure I'd want a pissed off judge who just had 3 weeks of trial time wasted because someone couldn't keep their fingers in their pocket making the decision as to appropriate penalties for the offender.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 2:35pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Your post just proves you either don't understand Mike's position, or did not bother reading the article.

    'As that link explains, courts already have broad powers to penalize jurors who disobey court rules, including "improper" conduct or "interfering" with a trial.'

    The question is, if they already have the ability to punish the jurors for this, why do they need another law to punish the jurors for this? It's another example of grandstanding legislation. A waste of your tax dollars at work so politicians can look like they are doing something useful.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 2:40pm

    Re: Re: Re: Titles a bit innacurate

    Ahh, but if they can put the people who pay the least amount of taxes (maybe due to a lack of income) into prison, they must employ more infrastructure, which means more people are getting paid, so they get more taxes. Yeah, it STILL doesn't make any sense, but that's the sort of logic we tend to be dealing with.

     

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  37.  
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    bjupton, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 3:02pm

    Re: Re: Re: Titles a bit innacurate

    "While the prison system in California may be big business for the company that runs it, they don't have much input into what laws are made."

    This is incredibly naive.

    They have the most to gain or lose from a position. They have money and access that regular citizens do not have.

     

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  38.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 4:19pm

    Re: :eyeroll:

    YEA, no due process.

     

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  39.  
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    abc gum, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 5:52pm

    Yep - that's what we need, more people in prison.

    It does not matter who or what they have done, because it is the bottom line that is important here - your rights be damned. Increased dividends is the goal from our for profit publicly held prison system and the slave labor is just the thing to make this country competitive again.

    Why do you hate America so much?

     

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  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 8:12pm

    This seems to me to be a fair discussion of the issues associated with this article:

    http://www.law.com/jsp/lawtechnologynews/PubArticleLTN.jsp?id=1202486252903&slreturn =1&hbxlogin=1

    In the final analysis it all comes down to "fairness" in the conduct of a judicial proceeding.

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 26th, 2011 @ 8:28pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    What, did you miss the key comment:

    "And, to be clear, I'm not entirely sure why it's so bad to talk about a case, in general. I can understand specific instances, based on what you're talking about, but an overall ban just seems unreasonable and unworkable."

    Mike sees no issue with ignoring the existing restrictions and sees them as unreasonable.

     

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  42.  
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    BongoBern (profile), Aug 27th, 2011 @ 9:01am

    Tweeting Jurists

    If you are tweeting and receiving tweets concerning court cases then you are getting information, MAY be getting information that is inadmissible or contaminate to the proceedings. The judge orders the jury not to discuss the case and they should be willing to accept that. I'm not sure about jail time for this but stiff fines would be appropriate.

     

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  43.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 28th, 2011 @ 6:56am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Titles a bit innacurate

    The issue is that in a country where most people no longer have 2 cents to rub together in their pockets, setting a really big fine is sort of meaningless. They will likely default on the fine anyway and end up in jail.

    Now jail gets their attention. It takes away something they want (freedom).

    Implying that there is some secret conspiracy between the state and the prisons to put more people in prison by writing laws like this is rather silly.

     

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

  44.  
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    btr1701 (profile), Aug 28th, 2011 @ 4:37pm

    Re:

    > Amongst other things, it's respect for the system, and
    > respect for the verdict to come.

    What I've never understood is people like you who seem to believe you can compel respect by force.

    You can compel submission but you can never compel respect.

     

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  45.  
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    Bt Garner (profile), Aug 29th, 2011 @ 7:14am

    I don't think it is bad to talk about a case, however, talking implies two way communication, and being talked to about a case can be very damaging.

    But there are already laws in place to handle this, all this does is make Jury Duty less appealing, and part of our due process is that you need to be judged by a jury of your peers. What is it going to say when anyone with a twitter account is going to be unable to serve on a Jury for fear of misconduct? Do you really want a jury of people who either cannot, or will not setup a twitter account to be judging you?

    I realize I am talking this a little further than it already is, but the slippery slope is pretty clearly visible.

     

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  46.  
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    CommonSense (profile), Aug 30th, 2011 @ 12:57pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    the perceived need for new laws is a result of someone doing something stupid, and then someone else reacting stupidly.

    Fixed that for ya.

    There doesn't need to be a new law, people simply need to be told that the existing law covers new technologies as well as everything it covered in the past. You can tell them that without passing a new law and wasting taxpayer money.

    Your example shows that YOU still do not get it...

     

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


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