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Guilty or Not Guilty: The New Facebook In-Trial Juror Poll

February 19, 2010

In the not-at-all-similar vein of my last post 2/12/10 regarding inclusiveness in language, I now find myself continuing in a downward spiral toward misanthropy.  Citizen Media Law Project files a cogent report on the U.S. Judicial Conference’s suggested federal jury instructions regarding using social media:

You, as jurors, must decide this case based solely on the evidence presented here within the four walls of this courtroom. This means that during the trial you must not conduct any independent research about this case, the matters in the case, and the individuals or corporations involved in the case. In other words, you should not consult dictionaries or reference materials, search the internet, websites, blogs, or use any other electronic tools to obtain information about this case or to help you decide the case. Please do not try to find out information from any source outside the confines of this courtroom.

This stems from the recent and more-oft-happenin’ reports of jurors tweeting and texting and “sharing” during trials.  Now to determine which is scarier: 1) That jurors would do that in the first place; or 2) That the Judicial Conference feels compelled to make more clear that which already was clear.   The comment to the Ninth Circuit Model Civil Jury Instruction 1.12 CONDUCT OF THE JURY

This instruction has been updated specifically to instruct jurors against accessing electronic sources of information and communicating electronically about the case, as well as to inform jurors of the potential consequences if a juror violates this instruction. An abbreviated instruction should be repeated before the first recess, and as needed before other recesses.

So, since the 9th has already adopted their version of the instruction, I’ll have to go from memory on what it used to say.  It was something to the effect of, “Do not consult any outside sources.”  “Any” is about as inclusive as words get in this context.  But I guess we still gotta spell things out for folks.

In that vein, please don’t make a Facebook poll for jurors.  That would not be cool.

Here’s some more takes on it: Jurors: Stop Twittering | Threat Level | Wired.com; No Talking, No Texting, No Tweeting – The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.

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