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Courts Move To Ban Juror Use of Net, Social Sites

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the tell-no-one dept.

Social Networks 288

coondoggie passes along a NetworkWorld report on the pronouncement of a judicial conference committee recommending that trial judges specifically instruct jurors not to use any electronic communications devices or sites during trial and deliberations. Here's the committee report (PDF). "If you think you're going to use your spanking new iPhone to entertain yourself next time you're on jury duty, think again. Judges are going to take an even dimmer view of jury member use of Blackberry, iPhone, or other electronic devices as a judicial policy-setting group has told district judges they should restrict jurors from using electronic technologies to research or communicate. ... The instructions state jurors must not use cell phones, e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, or communicate through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube."

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288 comments

No different than any other sequestering (5, Insightful)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006764)

How is this different than any other method of sequestering a jury? It makes perfect sense to me, human nature being what it is.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (1)

siloko (1133863) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006846)

Maybe that's so but it still feels like the little boy with a finger in the dyke - I know, I know times have changed and that means something quite different now ;)

Re:No different than any other sequestering (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31006878)

Maybe that's so but it still feels like the little boy with a finger in the dyke - I know, I know times have changed and that means something quite different now ;)

Actually, "dyke" has always been a slang term for a lesbian. The word you were looking for is "dike".

Re:No different than any other sequestering (2, Informative)

digitig (1056110) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008002)

Wrong, oh so wrong. A distinctively US mistake, I suspect, that I hear results in this bunch [blackdykeband.co.uk] getting some very strange correspondence.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (3, Interesting)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006874)

I can't imagine call phones or networked computers are allowed for a sequestered jury anyway - but I think "sequestering" a jury is pretty rare - the state has to provide hotel accommodations and food to everyone in the jury, which is really expensive!

This seems to be about recommending that ALL jurors refrain from accessing these social networks, etc. But I can't see how it's practical outside of the courtroom or deliberation. They can "instruct" the jurors all they want not to go online for the length of the trial, but that's not going to stop too many people...

Re:No different than any other sequestering (0)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006924)

I guess courts treat jurors like children.

By the way... until this trial is over: you're grounded.

You're not allowed to use a land line.

Not allowed to use a cell phone.

No going out to bars and getting drunk with friends.

(I'm sure talking about the case outside court is also already off-limits).

And forget bringing your laptop or iPad into the court room to take notes about what's going on in court, so you can make an accurate decision when it comes time for deliberation.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (5, Insightful)

coaxial (28297) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007040)

I guess courts treat jurors like children.

Only if as a juror you behave as a child, and can't respect the rules of evidence.

These rules have been around for centuries. As a juror, your information about the case you're hearing is to come through testimony given in court. This allows for a fair trail, since both sides can attempt to refute the evidence and testimony. If you go around playing amateur Columbo and CSI, you're going screw up someone's life. You are not an expert. You don't know what you're doing. You're engaging in the CSI effect [wikipedia.org].

Don't. Just don't. If you do, I'd want you thrown off my jury.

And forget bringing your laptop or iPad into the court room to take notes about what's going on in court, so you can make an accurate decision when it comes time for deliberation.

Exactly. That's why they give you *gasp* a pen and paper!

Re:No different than any other sequestering (5, Funny)

theheadlessrabbit (1022587) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007534)

Exactly. That's why they give you *gasp* a pen and paper!

and how the hell am I supposed to type with a pen and paper?

Re:No different than any other sequestering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007816)

That said, are there courts with video cameras where jurors can request replays? Even in no-video/photo/audio tape courts the media could be reserved for the jurors/judge then destroyed afterwards.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (1)

vintagepc (1388833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008114)

What, and have every single court become a Judge Judy stage?

Re:No different than any other sequestering (1)

fedos (150319) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008542)

Excellent reading comprehension skills there. The suggestion for was use of video by the court, not to be released to the public.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007870)

Not in Texas. In Texas, you are not allowed to take notes, period. You get access to the evidence in deliberation, but you aren't allowed to take notes, even if the case takes days. Personal experience... "You are the most important people in this courtroom." But then the court treats jurors like dirt and don't pay any money, becuase that might "influence" the jury. BS. At least they sorta pay for parking, and a lot of employers in the state will pay you your wage while you are required to be there.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (2, Interesting)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007884)

Exactly. That's why they give you *gasp* a pen and paper!

Actually, they don't allow that here unless there are special requirements for the trial. No recording or communications devices and no notes.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31008236)

When I served, they offered to provide a notebook, which they would keep when I was not in the courtroom.

The biggest effect is that this will prevent the juries from researching their rights, and the ability to be fully informed i.e. the right to nullify.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (1, Insightful)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008564)

The biggest effect is that this will prevent the juries from researching their rights, and the ability to be fully informed

Juries do not need to research their "rights" while a trial is on, they should be concentrating on the evidence in court, and if there is a point of law or something, they should ask the judge.
Also, there is no "right" to be fully informed (i.e. have 24 hour a day access to the internet or whatever) in any case.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (1)

iphinome (810750) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006940)

It's practical because the vast majority of trials take a day or two. It would be like 20 years ago telling someone they couldn't watch tv for 2 days, for most it wouldn't have been fun but a day or two of boredom isn't the end of the world and they did have nintendo.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (4, Informative)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006948)

I can't imagine call phones or networked computers are allowed for a sequestered jury anyway

Here in Western Australia, the courts "ask" you to surrender your phone. Doesn't even matter if it doesn't have a camera.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (2, Informative)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007904)

It was all electronics/recording devices the last time I had jury duty. You used to have to hand them to the Sheriff's officer as you went in to the box, but now it's only if you're actually empaneled. There was no 'ask,' it was a 'must' for us. I've gone three times, into the room four, into the box once and got challenged. They seem to change the setup every time. The last time they'd moved the court.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (2, Informative)

coaxial (28297) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007050)

This seems to be about recommending that ALL jurors refrain from accessing these social networks, etc. But I can't see how it's practical outside of the courtroom or deliberation. They can "instruct" the jurors all they want not to go online for the length of the trial, but that's not going to stop too many people...

The rules aren't any different than the current rules for jurors. You're not allowed to discuss the case, and refrain from news about it. This is just updating the rules for the 21st century.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (4, Informative)

the_womble (580291) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007222)

Exactly, unfortunately most people here need to RTFA.

The suggested instructions specifically inform jurors that they are prohibited from using these technologies in the courtroom, in deliberations, or outside the courthouse to communicate about or research cases on which they currently serve, the group stated.

There are a lot of comments below that are obviously by people who did not read that.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (4, Informative)

IBBoard (1128019) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007382)

But, as with so many other new laws, why is it even necessary when there are already laws in place?

The instructions state jurors must not use cell phones, e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, or communicate through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

So that would be "You're not allowed to discuss the case, and refrain from news about it" with the extra clarification of "using any technology available, whether it existed at the time the law was drafted or not". That's still "You're not allowed to discuss the case, and refrain from news about it", whichever way you look at it. Unless someone was completely short-sighted in drafting the original law then these rewrites seem pointless and overly verbose purely for the sake of having another law.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (1)

aussie_a (778472) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007262)

This is akin to saying "Juries shouldn't use the telephone or read a newspaper." In fact some of the restrictions are just that (the iPhone is a telephone).

Are these restrictions arbitrarily selecting modern communication methods? Or are these in addition to banning the use of landline telephones and newspapers?

Re:No different than any other sequestering (2, Funny)

Dan541 (1032000) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008342)

They can "instruct" the jurors all they want not to go online for the length of the trial, but that's not going to stop too many people...

I don't see how they can reasonably expect people to cease existing. Without the internet there's nothing.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007404)

Yeah, I don't see how this is anything new - Judge's get *pissed* if you're not paying attention during the trial, and at least here in NZ they've always made you hand in your cell phones etc. when you go out at the end for deliberations.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (1)

TheRealGrogan (1660825) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007748)

I do believe that is quite unreasonable. Just because I am a juror in a case does not mean I should not be able to do my work, monitor my servers etc. They are making you swear on so many things that only your own honesty could enforce, what's the difference here? "You must not use electronic devices to seek information pertaining to the trial"

Some of these trials can go on for weeks.

It's crap like this that made me shirk jury duty (it's not difficult to get out of, at least in Canada where I live) when facing a lengthy jury service in a child molestation trial where the defendant was pleading not guilty. I was going to do it (I felt it was my duty) until I realized what was going to happen. At that point I had to appear before the judge to get excused, citing the hardships it would have caused me. (I'd have lost clientele etc.) It's also not difficult to make yourself undesirable if reasoning isn't going to get you out of it. "My name is bubba yer honour and I hope we can make $ethnicgroup burn for what they did"

So if you want good jurors, don't expect them to give up their lives or they just aren't going to do it.

Re:No different than any other sequestering (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007844)

"It makes perfect sense to me"

What's the point of a jury when the jurors are not allowed to think for themselves? Just makes it more of a theatre in which the lawyer with the most obfuscated lies wins.

No TV, No Web, No Slashdot, No Newspaper (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006790)

...what's next, a ban on pizza and yanking off?

Re:No TV, No Web, No Slashdot, No Newspaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31006840)

I think I'm turning Japanese

and your dick must smell like tomato grease

Re:No TV, No Web, No Slashdot, No Newspaper (1)

Z00L00K (682162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006858)

Just be effective and quickly agree to either guilty or innocent.

And if you are for jury duty there is as far as I know no demand that you do take a shower or change clothes. So if the process is prolonged too much you will have one stinking jury.

Re:No TV, No Web, No Slashdot, No Newspaper (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007912)

A ban on pizza, most certainly. Can't risk a pizza arriving that has the face of [insert deity here] baked in, resulting in jury pollution from divine sources.

And? (3, Funny)

OverlordQ (264228) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006802)

This is surprising how?

Such use has resulted in mistrials, exclusion of jurors, and imposition of fines. ... The instructions state jurors must not [...] communicate through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube.

Because we all know Facebook and YouTube are full of impartial people who know anything about case law.

Good luck ever seating a jury again! (1)

SemperUbi (673908) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006810)

I get the issue of sequestering a jury, but now, they're asking people to do without some pretty deeply ingrained habits. And for days, weeks at a time? I think we'll see an uptick in creative jury-avoidance strategies. I'm going to start working on mine right now!

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31006834)

Just wear a T-Shirt that says "Jury" on the front and "Nullification" on the back.

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (4, Funny)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006970)

It occurs to me that having a T-shirt saying "GUILTY" should be a pretty good way of getting yourself excluded. ;-)

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007018)

What about one that says "I'm too dumb to get out of jury duty?"

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (2, Insightful)

deniable (76198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007924)

Then you're a perfect candidate for jury duty. They like the dumb ones.

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (1)

geminidomino (614729) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008446)

Then you're a perfect candidate for jury duty. They like the dumb ones.

They must BE the dumb ones if they actually take a T-shirt like that to be an indication of the truth.

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006852)

Jury filtering is so anal anyhow. What they should do is not require unanimous juries; then they won't be so paranoid about one flake getting in.

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (5, Insightful)

Trepidity (597) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006854)

Yeah, I'm certainly not going to agree to being sentenced to weeks of solitary confinement without having myself been accused of a crime. Even prisoners get to receive visitors and make phone calls.

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31006990)

+1 funny, yet so true

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (2, Informative)

Xeno man (1614779) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007172)

Yea, you tell them. I love masturbating and if I had to stop for days or even weeks because I was on a jury, I'd probably shoot up the place...wait, what ingrained habits were you referring to again?

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007772)

You could just act like a complete nutcase, I suppose. They should think twice before giving jury duty to a card-carrying member of the Flat Earth Society or 9/11 truthers...

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31008048)

Raises hand in court. "I have a question. I was surfing the web on my phone last night, googling the defendent's name..."

Would that be good enough to get kicked out of the jury during the middle of the trial?

Oh, and don't forget those sites that you can pay for background information about people.

Re:Good luck ever seating a jury again! (2, Funny)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008594)

I think we'll see an uptick in creative jury-avoidance strategies. I'm going to start working on mine right now!

Then you will go to prison if they catch you, and I, for one, hope they do.
Only an utter arsehole would want to undermine the jury system on the basis that it's a little bit inconvenient because you can't get your daily lolcats fix.

Uninformed Jury (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31006856)

Why do we accept the mind control brainwashing by the powers that be that an IGNORANT and UNINFORMED jury is a good jury? It's only a good jury from the point of view of the system and the prosecution where they control the information flow and where the judge denies informing the jury of their right to nullify the trial.

Re:Uninformed Jury (1, Interesting)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006908)

First, both sides can produce evidence. Second, being uninformed is there to assure an unbiased jury. Third, you do not have the right to nullify a trial, it is illegal to do so. The only reason it works is because it's more illegal to prosecute a jury for the verdict they produce. Not saying that jury nullification is a bad thing, but don't go around thinking that it's completely legal and encouraged.

Re:Uninformed Jury (3, Informative)

advocate_one (662832) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007074)

Third, you do not have the right to nullify a trial, it is illegal to do so.

to put it politely, bollocks... [wikipedia.org]

Re:Uninformed Jury (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007296)

Thank you for saving me the effort of finding the link.

We can argue whether slashdot is shilling for Apple this week, if there are more M$ turfers here now than in the past, and so forth. But the one thing I've really noticed is how many apologists for the legal community have shown up here over the years who have desperately tried to get the citizens of the US to throw away our rights.

Here, let me save you lawyers the effort. Shakespeare was NOT speaking in favor of lawyers [spectacle.org].

Re:Uninformed Jury (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007500)

Actually, he was.

Re:Uninformed Jury (-1, Flamebait)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007558)

Did you bother to fucking read what I posted at all or did you just have a knee jerk reaction to the first sentence of my post? I know it can be hard, what, with you wanting to spew whatever bullshit nonsense you have about "M$ turfers".

Read the last sentence "Not saying that jury nullification is a bad thing...". Not entirely sure how you managed to twist that into "trying to get US citizens to throw away our rights".

Re:Uninformed Jury (2)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007920)

Darned tooting he read what you wrote -- did you?

Third, you do not have the right to nullify a trial, it is illegal to do so.

You said jury nullification is illegal in the US. It isn't. Judges may disallow lawyers telling the jury they have the right, but it is legal. Here, from the wikipedia link.

A 1969 Fourth Circuit decision, U.S. v. Moylan, affirmed the right of jury nullification, but also upheld the power of the court to refuse to permit an instruction to the jury to this effect.[33] In 1972, in United States v. Dougherty, 473 F.2d 1113, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit issued a ruling similar to Moylan that affirmed the de facto power of a jury to nullify the law but upheld the denial of the defense's chance to instruct the jury about the power to nullify.[34] In 1988, the Sixth Circuit upheld a jury instruction that "There is no such thing as valid jury nullification."[35] In 1997, the Second Circuit ruled that jurors can be removed if there is evidence that they intend to nullify the law, under Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure 23(b).[36] The Supreme Court has not recently confronted the issue of jury nullification.

WTF? (3, Interesting)

EzInKy (115248) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006892)


Specifically, those instruction spell out that jurors should not you should not consult dictionaries or reference materials, search the internet, websites, blogs, or use any other electronic tools to obtain information either before the trial, during deliberations or after until the judge instructs otherwise.

Okay, maybe if jurors were required to pass some type of basic test that indicates they have a reasonable understanding of basic terms this would make sense, but denying the use of dictionaries makes no sense at all. How in the world is a "normal" person supposed to know when the judge or attorney is trying to pull a fast one when they aren't even allowed to research what is being said?

Re:WTF? (5, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006944)

>but denying the use of dictionaries makes no sense at all.

It does make sense. That's because most dictionaries do not give the legal definition for a term, and the legal definition can vary from state to state. If you are unsure, and you are on a jury, you have the foreman ask the judge the meaning of a word.

For instance, there is the colloquial definition of the word "insanity" yet in the United States there are 51 legal definitions (50 states plus federal) of that term.

I am sure NYCL and other actual lawyers here that can chime in on this topic.

Looking shit up in a dictionary can be a very bad thing.

--
BMO

Re:WTF? (-1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006980)

Looking shit up in a dictionary can be a very bad thing.

Yeah, you might make an informed decision instead of an emotional one.

Re:WTF? (3, Insightful)

bmo (77928) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007048)

It's like you didn't even read what I wrote, skipped right to the last line, and didn't think for one second that wrong information can be worse than no information.

Let me repeat it again, slower this time, and louder: TYPICAL DICTIONARIES DO NOT HAVE THE CORRECT LEGAL DEFINITIONS IN THEM THAT YOU CAN USE IN A JURY ROOM, WHICH IS WHY YOU SHOULD ASK THE JUDGE FOR THE DEFINITION OF A TERM THROUGH THE JURY FOREMAN.

--
BMO

Re:WTF? (0)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007220)

I read what you wrote.. and as much as I appreciate your use of the British language translation methodology, I still disagree with the basic premise. You're seeing this from the perspective of intelligent people who may not know some technical legal jargon. I'm seeing it from the perspective of people who don't know the meaning of the word "methodology", "premise", "perspective" and all those other more-than-3-syllable words that big city lawyers use, not because they are legal jargon, but because they are educated. The idea that average folks serving on a jury should feel comfortable asking the judge the meaning of every word they don't understand is pleasant, but I don't think they're going to be.. and that means they will go with whichever lawyer is slicker.

vocabulary is how your lie by misleading (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007312)

politicians and advertising RELY on using vocabulary to sound good, and lie to your face.
People misunderstand them all the time. Its like a cable salesman getting you to sign a contract and telling you "don't worry, its not a contract". Right, its not a contract, it just means they take your money.

Re:WTF? (1)

gmhowell (26755) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007270)

The legal meaning of a word is whatever the electorate and the jury decide. No amount of idiocy by lawyers can change this unless our government is no longer of, by, and for the people.

Re:WTF? (4, Insightful)

egburr (141740) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008424)

Yeah, the AC did read what you said. That's why he suggested to "start operating the courts in English" as opposed to legalese that only superficially looks like English but has completely different non-obvious meanings for words that ordinary people use all the time.

Typical juries don't even know that they don't know the meaning of the words. The words are ones they use all the time, so they think they know the meaning and see no need to ask for an official definition. It is the legal system that perverts those meanings.

If you want the jury to get it right, come up with a list of commonly misunderstood (for the courtroom meaning) words and make sure to spend some time educating the jurors. Don't wait for them to ask the meaning of words, because they already think they know the meanings. Sometimes, they will start to realize things aren't making sense and will try to figure out what's wrong.

I would be much more likely to try to look it up myself instead of asking the judge to explain it. For one thing, even the friendliest of judges is very intimidating, just because he is a judge and you are in his courtroom, whether you're the one on trial or not.

Re:WTF? (2, Insightful)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007596)

Alright, it makes sense that juries shouldn't consult just any random dictionary. But what's wrong with them consulting the relevant legal dictionary for whatever state/court system/etc. they're in? If they're in Colorado then they should be allowed to consult whatever dictionary is used to define legal terms in Colorado, etc.

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007850)

it is up to the lawyers to explain things. if a lawyer for one side is using complex words, then the other side has the advantage.

Re:WTF? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008272)

So provide the jury with a copy of Blacks Legal Dictionary. Or start operating the courts in English so that normal dictionaries are as right as any others.

Re:WTF? (1)

taucross (1330311) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006996)

I think the less informed a jury is, the more they are susceptible to the emotive speeches from lawyers. You know, the guys who profit from law. Laws like these. I can see it like this:

Defense counsel to expert witness: Sir, is it not true that the substance my client is accused of exploding is in fact inflammable?
Expert witness: Why yes, of course.

Later in the jury room...

Uninformed juror with no access to news sites, blogs or information on what happened: Y'all heard that there witness! That dang see-faw-whatsit can't be blown up!

Re:WTF? (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007584)

Any opposing lawyer would then ask:
"Mr. expert person, sir. Isn't it true that INflammable also means flammable because of some nuance in the language?"

Re:WTF? (2, Insightful)

BrokenHalo (565198) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007046)

How in the world is a "normal" person supposed to know when the judge or attorney is trying to pull a fast one

You're not. You're expected to do as you're told, and think what they tell you to think. It's common for some sort of deal to have taken place, or for some sort of circumstance affecting another case to have occurred, but the jury is usually kept in the dark about it, even if they do catch a strong whiff of rodent.

Re:WTF? (4, Insightful)

mpoulton (689851) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007104)

Specifically, those instruction spell out that jurors should not you should not consult dictionaries or reference materials, search the internet, websites, blogs, or use any other electronic tools to obtain information either before the trial, during deliberations or after until the judge instructs otherwise.

Okay, maybe if jurors were required to pass some type of basic test that indicates they have a reasonable understanding of basic terms this would make sense, but denying the use of dictionaries makes no sense at all. How in the world is a "normal" person supposed to know when the judge or attorney is trying to pull a fast one when they aren't even allowed to research what is being said?

If the definition of a word is of critical importance in a case, that is all the more reason for jurors NOT to consult a dictionary. Dictionary authors are not the final arbiters of legal disputes, and their opinion on what words mean carries no weight in court. Besides, which dictionary rules? No, it is the jurors' understanding of the relevant terms that governs. The parties will surely spare no efforts in explaining their preferred interpretations, if it's important to the case. If it's not a matter that's open to interpretation by the jurors, then the judge will provide the definition to be used. These same rules apply to all information in the trial, not just definitions of words. Any information the jury needs to know to resolve the case must be provided by the parties, or by the judge. If the parties fail to provide enough information, they suffer the consequences in the form of a poorly informed verdict. Because outside information cannot be vetted for accuracy or legal relevance, and cannot be rebutted by the parties, it is ENTIRELY IMPROPER for jurors to consider it, and DEFEATS THE PURPOSE OF THE TRIAL PROCESS! Before you argue otherwise, put yourself in the position of either party to the case and consider how you would want this to be handled. You will inevitably reach the same conclusion - complete control of the jury's information feed will give the best and most consistent results for any party to the dispute. Jurors find this frustrating, but trials do not exist for their entertainment.

How can jurors tell if a lawyer (or more importantly, a witness) is pulling a fast one? Two ways: first, the other attorney damn well ought to be calling him out. That's his job. Second, jurors apply the same common sense factors that let them determine trustworthiness every day outside the courtroom. What if the judge is pulling a fast one? That's not for the jury to identify or correct - that's what appellate courts are for. Appellate judges earn their salaries by determining when trial judges got things wrong.

Re:WTF? (2, Interesting)

rts008 (812749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007744)

Jurors find this frustrating, but trials do not exist for their entertainment.

If I had mod points currently you would see a '+* insightful' just for that. Sorry you have to see this comment instead. :-)

The key word that applies to this is jury duty . Duty...it implies a lot of things, very often not pleasant.

The present day attitude of lack of personal responsibility and self entitlement is despicable, IMO.

Except for the fact that this affects everyone, and not just the self-entitled 'not my fault because *insert 'reason' here*' asshats...well I could not care less for their perceived misfortune. Sadly, these asshats attitude and whining affect us all due to their widespread infiltration of our society.

BTW: good post! I agree with the remainder that I did not address...I was inflamed by the nonsense carried on above your comment:
afore mentioned asshat [slashdot.org]
May be a troll, or EPIC FAIL at 'funny' [slashdot.org] toss a coin...
self-entitled asshat [slashdot.org]
Knee-jerk...no clue [slashdot.org]
loves to build strawmen, and delights in showing off with his self-perceived 'superior intellect'*see:"Wrath of Khan"* [slashdot.org]

GHAAaaaaagh!!!! KHHAAAANNNNNNNnnnn!!!!!!

Re:WTF? (1)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008310)

'Duty' normally implies that someone with a vested interest in you doing something wants to construct an emotive reason why you should, because they can't justify it any other way.

A better term would be jury service, because you are serving your community, but servants still get paid, a butler will be paid ~ £30,000 \year - he may be a servant, but he's paid a stonking pile of cash because of the unpleasant stuff that he has to put up with.

In conclusion, I'd be more in favour of jurors being treated like dirt if they were being paid handsomely, rather than being essentially required to perform voluntary work, and then being told that as a condition of doing this voluntary work, they have to shred their ability to maintain a social life.

Re:WTF? (1)

petermgreen (876956) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007818)

complete control of the jury's information feed will give the best and most consistent results for any party to the dispute
What I don't get is if you are going to reduce juries actions to an essentially mechanical processes what is the point of having a jury in the first place?

Re:WTF? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31008278)

For the appearance of justice.

Re:WTF? (3, Insightful)

cbeaudry (706335) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008436)

How about, we live in 2010.

The average Joe is 10 times more educated than 300 years ago and will use that education when forming his opinion.
Allowing that person to read a dictionary, research terms, definitions, subjects, etc... allows for a TRUE jury of his peers.

Throwing them in there blind is the stoopidest shit every. Its about the theater of the court room, and a person can be thrown in jail because of the incompetence of the defense or the other way around (someone can walk because the prosecution was incompetent).

If the jury is supposed to be the decider, then allow them to decide.

Again, we are in 2010, time to stop this fucking gaming of this system bullshit.

Re:WTF? (1)

cvtan (752695) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007436)

The only information you are supposed to use to come to a verdict is what you hear at trial. Nothing else except your own knowledge and experience. In the two trials I have been on, you could not even take notes during the trial to help refresh your memory about the testimony. In my second stint at jury duty, we were allowed pencil and paper during deliberations because there were 18 charges to keep track of. How to get out of it? I just started a new job and I might get fired if I serve. (Doesn't always work.) I think the defendant should take the stand in his own defense or else he/she looks more guilty. I know the defendant or his/her attorneys or the victim. Anyone arrested by the police must be guilty of something. I don't understand English well enough. I play tennis with the District Attorney's wife. I or a family member have been arrested recently. etc. etc. etc. You should serve if asked! I found it really interesting and you get to trash the annoying attorneys during deliberation which is always fun.

Re:WTF? (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007624)

The excuse about being fired if you have to show up for jury duty probably doesn't work because it's illegal to fire workers if they missed work for jury duty. Might be a pain in the ass with the backlog, but you can't be fired.

illegal != "cannot be done" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31008140)

If it were not possible to do illegal things then you wouldn't have been summoned for jury duty.

It is most certainly possible to get fired because you missed work for jury duty. Sure you can try to sue your employer about it afterwards, but in the meantime you may have lost your house to foreclosure which is not something the next judge is likely to un-do.

Law is all about not finding out the truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31006950)

Just as you're not allowed to record/tape an interview that lawyers hold with their clients (out of fear the truth may get out), you shouldn't be allowed to research all those lies from the lawyers in court either...

Jail the Jury (1)

chaosdivine69 (1456649) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006958)

Well this is getting kind of out of hand. Why not just throw the jury in jail too? I mean you're taking away their freedoms already so why not do it right? At least in the end the jury gets out of jail... It would be good if the jury COULD use technology (email) but only on computers sanctioned and controlled (monitored) by the judicial service. That means "highly filtered" and/or reviewed by approved moderators of the court. If you are found breaking the rules, slap their pee pee's and throw them in jail too. At least jurors would be warned. What if I was on the jury of a long trial and I had to pay my bills online and no longer got my bill stubs the "paper way" but rather through email? Sorry - collection service for you...credit rating hell. How dumb is that?

When is their use banned? (1)

cbope (130292) | more than 4 years ago | (#31006982)

I'm assuming they are talking about banning their use *during* trials, e.g. when the jurors are actually in the jury box or deliberating outside the courtroom. It seems a bit ridiculous to ban use of the devices when jurors are on their own time, outside the trial, at home, commuting, etc. In fact here in Finland it would be against the law to do so since access to the internet has recently been granted a right to all citizens.

I totally agree that such devices should not be allowed during the actual trial or when jury members are "performing their duty" as jurors. I can just image someone trying to sell their "story" to a disreputable publisher (tabloids) by reporting to the publisher, during a major trial.

I found a loophole! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007034)

xbox 360, connect to net, talk via in-game messaging. eat that, Johnny Law!

Or use yahoo instant messenger. IMs are not on the list.

Fine fine fine. (1)

v(*_*)vvvv (233078) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007198)

But please pay me more than 15 dollars a day for my pain and suffering, not to mention people thinking I'm dead after not tweeting or updating facebook for more than 24 hrs!

I do wonder how this would affect the jury selection process though. This isn't *suppose* to have any influence at all I am sure, but what if more people who don't use the internet end up being jurors? Kind of like only pro-death penalty people being allowed on a capital case.

Re:Fine fine fine. (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007646)

Dumbass, it's not "pro-death-penalty" people. It's people that aren't biased for or against the death penalty. "Pro-death-penalty" people aren't allowed on any more than "anti-death-penalty" people are.

Re:Fine fine fine. (2, Interesting)

kramerd (1227006) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007694)

Serving as a juror is a responsibility as a US citizen, and whatever you get paid for doing so is an honorarium, not a salary. Payments for pain and suffering, on the other hand, are generally settlements for tort liabilites, and the honorarium you receive for completing jury duty is not compensation for completing jury duty. It is so that the normal expenses that you would not otherwise suffer (such as lunch and parking) become a net cost of 0.

News flash - you don't get paid for voting either.

If more people who don't use the internet end up being jurors, I assume it will either have no effect or would improve the ability of jurors to listen to the facts of individual cases, as they are supposed to be doing in determining their verdicts. One of the main purposes of a jury is so that outside influences (such as newspapers, television, and internet) are not influential. It would be more like only people who have not determined their personal stance on the death penalty being allowed on a capital case. If only pro death-penalty (your idea is just stupid) people were allowed on a capital case, the defending lawyer would simply be getting a free shot at getting his client off, because a death verdict would be thrown out pretty much automatically on appeal.

Re:Fine fine fine. (0, Flamebait)

rts008 (812749) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007992)

But please pay me more than 15 dollars a day for my pain and suffering, not to mention people thinking I'm dead after not tweeting or updating facebook for more than 24 hrs!

Did you skip 'Civics' in Jr. High to get high?
What part of 'jury DUTY' did you not understand?
Pain and suffering? WTF?!?!
You self-entitled asshat!

I do wonder how this would affect the jury selection process though. This isn't *suppose* to have any influence at all I am sure, but what if more people who don't use the internet end up being jurors? Kind of like only pro-death penalty people being allowed on a capital case.

No, the 'in the know' crowd still have the same tricks that worked for past generations, and we now have Smart Fones 2!!11!

*hint* "If he/she was arrested, then he/she must be guilty."

Re:Fine fine fine. (1)

Anonymous Cowpat (788193) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008362)

Did you skip 'Civics' in Jr. High to get high?
What part of 'jury DUTY' did you not understand?
Pain and suffering? WTF?!?!
You self-entitled asshat!

1) A duty is something that I accept, it is not assigned to me by someone else who thinks that I ought to do it
2) Do you know what the difference between $100\day and $15\day is over the course of a month? $1700. How many months of being $1700 in the hole could you survive before your finances collapsed? And even if you didn't lose your home, you would still be down that much money to spend on whatever else you wanted to spend your money on.
OP's use of 'pain & suffering' may be a little over the top, but the point that as a juror you're prevented from earning your living, and should be properly compensated for that is a valid one.

Just another reason to dodge Jury Duty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007226)

No wonder they get completely crap juries. $5 a day and completely cut off from the world?

Does it surprise anyone that 99.5% of the best and brightest are going to do their darndest to get out of it?

(The 0.5 remaining could be split up into 0.1 (the scrupulously dutiful), 0.3 (those with agendas to push), 0.2 (those who believe they can actually get away with jury nullification).

S.

Makes Sense... (1)

doishmere (1587181) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007230)

Would you like jurors reading about you in some shitty tabloid? The press can hurt the innocent and guilty alike.

Welcome to the 21st Century! (3, Funny)

creimer (824291) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007246)

If they remake the movie "12 Angry Men" (like everything else these days), the story will be about 12 angry men who are kept locked up in a jury room with no access to their online porn.

Re:Welcome to the 21st Century! (2, Insightful)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008442)

If they remake the movie "12 Angry Men" (like everything else these days), the story will be about 12 angry men who are kept locked up in a jury room with no access to their online porn.

At least one of those men was angry because he was missing a baseball game. Same thing, different decade.

Advice for Jurors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31007570)

1. Swear you'll be fair and neutral.
2. If it's a criminal case, vote Not Guilty. Anybody asks you, just say, I didn't believe the evidence.
3. If it's a civil case, the defendant is really an insurance company, but you'll be told the defendant is Joe Average. Award the plaintiff lots of money! I'd do the same for you. Joe will never have to pay a dime out-of-pocket.

Re:Advice for Jurors (1)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007662)

Wait a minute. Sure, granting lots of money to people who aren't insurance companies is something I can definitely get behind, but always voting not guilty for criminal trials? Look, jury nullification is supposed to be used to prevent nonsense prosecution. In fact, voting not guilty regardless of the evidence will keep you in the jury LONGER because you'll have to deliberate longer to try and keep from hanging and causing a mistrial.

Re:Advice for Jurors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31008524)

Jury nullification is supposed to be used to make sure justice is served- that the government (prosecutor and judge) don't convict someone for a crime that they should not be convicted of. And yes, the jury is supposed to make that distinction.

The process takes as long as it takes. That is the duty part.

Multi-day trials (1)

dugeen (1224138) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007810)

Unfortunately there'd be no way of enforcing these rules between days in trials. There have already been cases in the UK of jurors reaching verdicts on the basis of subjective internet comments about the accused.

Pathetically ignorant and condescending (3, Interesting)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | more than 4 years ago | (#31007894)

I know about the artificial separation of judges deciding law and jurors deciding fact, but forget that for a moment.

Jurors are presumably supposed to use their judgment to decide the facts -- are the witnesses trustworthy, is their testimony full of inconsistencies, how do different witness's testimonies stack up against each other ...

But all this REQUIRES that jurors use their own knowledge to some extent. If a witness says something that is obviously wrong to a car mechanic but not an ice cream clerk, that mechanic darned well better tell the other jurors why he thinks the witness is lying. Jurors are expected to NOT drop their real-world knowledge at the door. (I am particularly thinking of My Cousin Vinny, where only a car fanatic would know vital clues about the tire tracks and what kind of car could have made them.)

Now how is this different from a juror who knows just enough to be wary of something and looks it up (NOT during the trial, but at home, or even during deliberations)? It's all fine and dandy to say that is up to the opposing lawyer to handle, that jurors are not police or investigators, but that is word games. If I knew something before the trial, I am expected to use that knowledge to uncover bad testimony. But if I acquire that knowledge during the trial, I am supposed to pretend I don't know that a witness is lying?

Maybe a case can be made for looking up a witness's past history, but even then I don't think so. If I knew a witness personally before the trial, knew he had a history of lying, knew he hated the defendant or was jealous of him or was in love with him, whatever kind of influence you can think of, that is part of my knowledge and part of how I decide what is true and what is false. Even if the only reputation they have is from always appearing in newspapers under unsavory conditions, I am not expected to forget all that when evaluating their testimony. And yes, I am ignoring the idea that prior criminal history is not supposed to be part of a defendant's current trial, but I also think that is bunk -- if some guy has been to jail a half dozen times for beating people up, that sure as heck is significant.

This all stems from olden times when jurors had no way of looking things up, and very little need. But the world is more complicated now, people know more and get around more, and I'd rather be tried by jurors who knew how to look up things for themselves rather than sit around like stupified monkeys.

Re:Pathetically ignorant and condescending (4, Insightful)

cthugha (185672) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008420)

The difficulty with jurors accessing material outside of the evidence led in court is that the party against whom that material is used has no means of challenging or testing it, since (a) it's not been disclosed to anyone outside the jury room and (b) even if it were disclosed, who's available to be cross-examined on that material? Are you going to go out and drag the journalist, dictionary editor, Wikipedia contributor, blog author, etc into court after both sides have closed their cases? How are you even going to be able to identify or locate that person?

Jurors (and judges, in judge-only trials) are limited to considering only what has been formally admitted into evidence to ensure that basic procedural fairness applies to all the material used in the case. Further, the public would be prejudiced in their ability to assess the result of the trial if they didn't know about all the evidence themselves, which can't happen unless it is all led in open court.

This doesn't stop jurors from applying the general knowledge and "common sense" of the ordinary person to resolve conflicts in the evidence as directed by the judge and after hearing counsels' arguments on the point, but the rules of evidence in most jurisdictions also say that if a party doesn't challenge a piece of evidence then the court is obliged to accept that evidence.

Finally, your point about criminal histories is based on a half-truth: criminal history is admissible when an accused brings character into issue, e.g. by suggesting that a prosecution witness is lying. Otherwise, it's on the prosecution to prove that the person committed this particular offence (at least it is outside the US).

Re:Pathetically ignorant and condescending (1)

necro81 (917438) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008568)

Maybe a case can be made for looking up a witness's past history, but even then I don't think so. If I knew a witness personally before the trial, knew he had a history of lying, knew he hated the defendant or was jealous of him or was in love with him, whatever kind of influence you can think of, that is part of my knowledge and part of how I decide what is true and what is false

If you knew a witness personally, any competent lawyer would have you rejected from the juror pool for that trial. If the relationship isn't known to counsel beforehand, or not brought up during jury selection, you have a moral obligation to recuse yourself as soon as that witness comes up. There are alternate jurors empaneled for just this kind of occasion.

Terrible editing on this non-story (5, Insightful)

Narcogen (666692) | more than 4 years ago | (#31008220)

The summary here contains a pullquote that has been specifically edited in a misleading way to turn what is basically a non-story into a story.

The summary says:

Judges are going to take an even dimmer view of jury member use of Blackberry, iPhone, or other electronic devices as a judicial policy-setting group has told district judges they should restrict jurors from using electronic technologies to research or communicate. ... The instructions state jurors must not use cell phones, e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, or communicate through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, and YouTube."

Pay close attention to the ellipses after "communicate".

This quote appears to be from the committee report, but the committee report link is broken; it contains no href, just anchor tags.

The article says:

"the suggested instructions specifically inform jurors that they are prohibited from using these technologies in the courtroom, in deliberations, or outside the courthouse to communicate about or research cases on which they currently serve"

Not convinced yet? Here is the complete first paragraph from the committee report [uscourts.gov] mentioned, but NOT linked to, in the quote contained in the summary:

"At its December 2009 meeting, the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) endorsed a set of suggested jury instructions that district judges should consider using to help deter jurors from using electronic technologies to research or communicate about cases on which they serve. The suggested instructions are included as Attachment 1."

Emphasis is mine in previous two quotations. In other words, you are not banned from using these devices or services. The article mentions that you may not use these things to discuss or research the case. The networkworld article uses the inflammatory word "ban" in its headline (inappropriately) and the Slashdot post goes even further, deliberately eliminating context crucial to understanding the actual guidelines and replacing them with ellipses.

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