The Temptation of Technology for Jurors
If you have watched The People v. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story, you will remember the scene when the jury gets to the hotel for the first time. At first, they were excited about the place they would be staying during the trial. That changed pretty quickly, however, when they noticed that all forms of media had been removed from their rooms. The concept of quarantine sunk in very quickly.
In the last decade, as social media has continued to proliferate throughout society, fears of its use affecting the fairness of jury trials has equally proliferated. While most of you will never stand before a jury of your peers awaiting your future fate, you should be interested in the fairness of this process for everyone who does.
Juror misconduct may occur when a juror violates the rules of a judge during a trial. It can be done in big ways, like when a juror in West Virginia a few years ago took her own field trip to the crime scene by herself one night. It can also be done in small ways, like when one juror makes a comment to another juror while pouring himself some coffee.
In theory, it could even go so far as the way John Grisham portrayed it in The Runaway Jury, although most agree that this is not very likely.
Modern-day Juror Misconduct:
The real concern today is how easy it is for jurors to be influenced by technology. If the defendant is on Facebook, a juror can easily see his profile and identify any shared Facebook friends. If the juror doesn’t like what or who he/she sees on Facebook, it can influence a decision of innocence or guilt.
Law Technology Today foresaw even more issues in 2015. Any evidence in the current case or prior convictions in a defendant’s history that has been deemed inadmissible can still sometimes be found online. A quick Google search of a defendant’s name can often bring up more than a juror is supposed to know. If you do not believe it, try it with yours.
Solutions for Avoiding Juror Misconduct:
The longer this technology exists in our pockets or handbags, the more it is used. The legal system has to learn, and has learned, how to account for it. One way is to keep jury trials to a single day, if possible. That way, the temptation of jurors to commit misconduct is reduced before the end of a trial.
Another way is for lawyers to include this as part of a trial, if applicable. If one wants to control how jurors are to see certain aspects of a defendant’s online presence, it might be best to get in front of that, if applicable to the case.
This is a problem that is not going away. Addiction to technology is only increasing. While many people will never be in a situation where their futures are this perilous, everyone should want any defendant to be treated the way they would want to be treated.
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