Trials and Tweets
Image via CrunchBase
Here is an interesting article on how the "Information Age" is impacting jury trials. The article focuses on a New York case that was thrown out when it was admitted by eight (and that's out of twelve) jurors were conducting Google searches, Wikipedia searches, and using other Internet resources to discover facts about the case that the attorneys had not presented, and even facts that had been specifically excluded by the court. Another civil case in Arkansas is up on appeal by the loser of at $12 Million verdict on the grounds that a juror was twittering from the jury box. One of the alleged tweets: “So Johnathan, what did you do today? Oh nothing really, I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else’s money.”
Now outside influences on juries has always been a problem. Rent "12 Angry Men" sometime. A good movie, but Henry Fonda's independent examination as the jury foreman was totally against rules and borderline contempt of the court. However, with information so much more accessible, and with a modern idea of people feeling almost entitled to any information they want, the situation seems to be getting worse and clashing with the idea of the judge and rules of evidence limiting the information to juries.
The rules are designed to provide juries the information they need to give a decision and verdict on the the relevant facts of the case and to prevent inflammatory, confusing, irrelevant information and to prevent trials from lasting twice as long as they do. We don't want jurors ruling for or against somebody because they like dogs, or flunked out of college, or had an affair, or any other reason that, if we really thought about it, would realize shouldn't effect the outcome.
Hopefully judges will pay more attention to all those Blackberries and Iphones in their courtroom. Next time I try a case, I know I'll be monitoring TwitterLocal.
–Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC who
specializes in Personal Injury, Medical Malpractice, Contract and Real
Estate disputes and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him
at (910) 772-1678.