The use of social media devices, such as Facebook and Twitter, has proven to be problematic to the justice system. On August 21, a new set of jury instructions was issued in a Federal Judicial Conference. Jurors will be told by the judge:
“I know that many of you use cell phones, BlackBerrys, the Internet and other tools of technology. You also must not talk to anyone at any time about this case or use these tools to communicate electronically with anyone about the case. This includes your family and friends. You may not communicate with anyone about the case on your cell phone, through e-mail, BlackBerry, iPhone, text messaging or on Twitter, through any blog or website, including Facebook, Google+, My Space, LinkedIn or YouTube. You may not use any similar technology of social media, even if I have not specifically mentioned it here.”
Many trials are being reopened due to this recent ruling. Over 90 verdicts are subject to challenge from 1999 to 2010 because of Internet-related juror misconducts, according to a 2010 Reuters Legal Survey.
According to NBCNews.com, a 40-year-old juror in Britain admitted she used Facebook to contact the defendant in a case because she saw ‘considerable parallels’ between their lives.
“I don’t think they should be allowed, because Facebook and Twitter are huge sources to see current news,’ stated Kara Leeds, a senior Industrial Engineering major. “On Twitter, if you follow accounts, such as CNN or local news station WHAS; you will see headlines and excerpts from any major cases that are happening in the courtroom.”
Efforts to prohibit jury members from communicating through electronic devices may not be an easy task, especially when it comes to using them outside of the courtroom.
Many jurors may be prone to research their cases before the trial to gain useful insight. Instead of listening to the experts, they may become their own experts on the matter explained Gerry Oginski, a New York attorney.
In an era where social media is so easily accessible, the judicial system may not be able to completely eliminate all usage of electronic devices.
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