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.