Michigan Supreme Court Issues New Stop Twittering Rule For Juries

from the stop-that-twittering dept

There have been a few recent stories about jury members using Twitter, and courts have been trying to figure out how to deal with it. Well, over in Michigan, the Supreme Court has issued new rules for judges to tell jurors concerning their use of text messaging and other communication services. While it doesn’t name Twitter specifically, it seems like the new rules are pretty clearly directed at jurors who might Twitter or use some other similar communication tool to explain what’s happening in the case.

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Comments on “Michigan Supreme Court Issues New Stop Twittering Rule For Juries”

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8 Comments
Jason (profile) says:

They should not even have phones/laptops

I served on a federal case 6 months ago in Mass. I was not able to bring a laptop or phone past security. We were told to not read the newspaper or even go online looking for anything related to the case while at home – we could not even look up definitions or medical terms. Finally we were told to NOT discuss the case with anyone, not even spouses because their opinions could taint our opinions and they have not heard the details from witnesses. The role of the juror is to decide based on his or her knowledge NOT information learned via research or other people.

I am not sure I agree with all those rules, I think informed jurors are better able to reach a decision. But the theory is that if you need to know it, then the lawyers should provide witnesses to explain it. Fair enough.

I find the right thing is that jurors have no phone, no electronics etc. Call it your civic duty to suffer withoout technology for a few days.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: They should not even have phones/laptops

“I am not sure I agree with all those rules, I think informed jurors are better able to reach a decision. But the theory is that if you need to know it, then the lawyers should provide witnesses to explain it. Fair enough.”

I don’t know that I trust the lawyers to provide all pertinent information (especially in an unbiased fashion) but at the same time I do understand the need to avoid outside bias, especially by very influential people like family members. I think it’s important to properly balance the need to know all relevant information with the need to avoid such bias and I’m not exactly sure where that balance lies.

“we could not even look up definitions or medical terms.”

That seems rather extreme, how is a juror supposed to make a proper decision if s/he doesn’t properly understand the terminology being discussed. I suppose there might be experts (assuming those “experts” are not bias) s/he can ask or perhaps s/he can ask other jurors (assuming another juror is a doctor if intricate medical terms are involved) but I still find not being able to look up medical terms a bit extreme.

Danny (user link) says:

But I thought...

…current no communication laws would cover this. Everytime I’ve been on jury duty our cell phones were taken and returned at the end of day. And besides in order to twitter from the courthouse you need some sort of electronic device. Aren’t they already banned? And as for Twittering after returning home from court would that not also be covered but current laws just as talking to media, blogging, etc…?

This sounds like grandstanding. Someone saw this as a chance to make a name for themselves and leaped.

rwahrens (profile) says:

control is the issue

Courts have traditionally controlled the access juries have to the outside world. This is to prevent biased, incorrect or flawed information about the subjects covered at the trial from contaminating the information the jury has received during deliberations.

In the past, juries had to write notes to the judge for information (such as definitions of medical terms, for instance), since many times such information would need to come from an expert to ensure that the definition is correct and is germane to the issues at hand.

The ability of jurors to go directly to the Internet (and all the contaminated and potentially incorrect sources therein) is like opening the jury room door and giving them access to any Joe Blow that wants to walk in. It also prevents the Court from being able to ensure that the information is properly presented and explained to the jury so they can see how it pertains to the issues they are deliberating about.

This is problematic on any number of levels, not the least of which is the ability of the jurors to exchange information with any number of interested parties, both to reveal the deliberations of the jury to the world, and to allow the jury access to parties that would contaminate that deliberative process in their own favor.

Were I in charge of a court, I would not only collect cell phones, disallow laptops and search for hidden electronics prior to jury deliberations, I would employ jamming equipment to prevent anything missed in the search process from gaining access to the outside world.

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