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US Trials Off Track Over Juror Internet Misconduct

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the drop-in-the-bucket dept.

The Courts 405

aesoteric writes "The explosion of blogging, tweeting and other online diversions has reached into US jury boxes, in many cases raising serious questions about juror impartiality and the ability of judges to control their courtrooms. A study by Reuters Legal found that since 1999, at least 90 verdicts have been the subject of challenges because of alleged Internet-related juror misconduct — and that more than half of the cases occurred in the last two years. Courts were fighting back, with some judges now confiscating all phones and computers from jurors when they enter the courtroom."

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405 comments

Bonus (0)

Allicorn (175921) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507418)

> with some judges now confiscating all phones and computers from jurors when they enter the courtroom

Gosh, and I just needed something to motivate me more to participate in juror duty.

Re:Bonus (1)

godrik (1287354) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507432)

well, why do you need your phone or computer for during your juror duty ?

Re:Bonus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34507514)

Yes.

I own several apartment buildings. If something happens, I have to take care of it ASAP.

Re:Bonus (5, Informative)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507554)

Yes.

I own several apartment buildings. If something happens, I have to take care of it ASAP.

That thing rings during a trial you will have plenty of time cooling your heels in jail (without a phone) for contempt of court.

You do NOT use a phone when on Jury duty.

Re:Bonus (2)

frosty_tsm (933163) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507904)

Yes.

I own several apartment buildings. If something happens, I have to take care of it ASAP.

That thing rings during a trial you will have plenty of time cooling your heels in jail (without a phone) for contempt of court.

You do NOT use a phone when on Jury duty.

The last time I went to jury duty, a judge spoke saying that a ring of the phone messed the questioning of a witness. The lawyer had spent quite a while getting the person in the right position to get a case-making statement to be made when a juror's phone went off, giving the witness 45 seconds to prepare their answer.

Re:Bonus (1)

wygit (696674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507628)

You are free to use that as a reason that you can't serve on the jury.

The judge is free to accept that reason or not, and some actually might.

I wouldn't count on it.

Find an exception (5, Insightful)

hellfire (86129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507644)

Either get someone else to be on call or ask the judge to be dismissed from jury duty because of the undue burden it would put on you and your business. I personally have no idea if asking to be dismissed will work, but it's incredibly stupid to expect court to stop for you while you take a phone call about a tenant complaining about the wailing cat upstairs. In the US, and just about every other country, the court's business is more important than yours. If you can't find someone to help you run you business, you do not belong in that court room.

Re:Find an exception (1)

berzerke (319205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507972)

...In the US, and just about every other country, the court's business is more important than yours...

Depends on your point of view. Almost everybody thinks (most of the time), that their business is more important than someone else's. The difference here is the judge has a great deal of power, and little oversight on their (mis)use of it, and you don't.

Re:Bonus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34507776)

Yes.

I own several apartment buildings. If something happens, I have to take care of it ASAP.

That's what you think.

Re:Bonus (0)

jeremyp (130771) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507938)

For fucks sake. I think the issue of deciding whether a man deserves to go to prison or not slightly outweighs your poxy apartment blocks.

Re:Bonus (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508030)

"I own several apartment buildings. If something happens, I have to take care of it ASAP."

I'm sure slumlording is a very important vocation but that excuse won't fly. I've served on juries, the very last time in fact a doctor was told he had to appear before a judge on the very day I was there for selection in that trial. He had apparently passed along several notes to the court asking to delay, befuddle, and stay his own involvement in the selection process and the court had enough and informed him he would be personally present. After making several excuses verbally the judge looked down at him through his glasses (in that way only judges can) and asked "...doctor, you practice as part of a medical group or partnership?" "Yes, but...:" "And you take vacations?" "Well, of course but I hardly think..."
"Doctor, you will be here Monday morning for the start of trial and if not you will be in contempt. understood?"

That was a fun trial.

Re:Bonus (1)

yurtinus (1590157) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508210)

And clearly as an enterprising business man, you have somebody else that can handle emergencies when you are unavailable? You know... when you take vacations, fly on airplanes, or are otherwise out of cell phone range... It almost makes me wonder how anything every got done in the days before instant communication to anybody you want.

Re:Bonus (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507544)

Clearly its to check out /. while one of the lawyers is going on with a very boring speech.

Re:Bonus (1)

WitnessForTheOffense (1669778) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507728)

How about to fact-check the bullshit that the lawyers are spewing...?

Re:Bonus (1)

dieth (951868) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507966)

Would be classified as external and unchallengeable testimony(As neither counsel would be privy to you considering external info) and would get you disqualified as a juror and possibly cause a mistrial depending on whether or not you shared this information to other jurors, and thus perpetuated the unchallengeable testimony.

Re:Bonus (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508114)

What's really nice in this country, among other rights, is the one that allows the accused to cross-examine their accusers. Are you going to make a full report to the defense council of the sources you consulted so that their authors can be called to the stand if the defendant wants to exercise that right?

Re:Bonus (5, Insightful)

LastDawnOfMan (1851550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507580)

You know what's really cool. Being stuck in jail for weeks on end because they can't put a jury together because our society is full if irresponsible, narcissistic bastards who think jury duty is something someone else should do because of the minor inconvenience it represents. Just hope you don't get to find out about that first-hand.

Re:Bonus (2)

zoomshorts (137587) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507730)

Agreed.

Re:Bonus (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34507732)

They should just replace the jury with a panel of judges. Justice would be better served by having well educated people who have a good knowledge of the law and an interest in justice deciding cases. Right now, juries are kept deliberately ignorant and in many cases resent being in the jury box in the first place. This is how criminal cases are handled in many other countries (trial by a panel of judges); it is time the US updated the system, even if it would mean amending the constitution.

Re:Bonus (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507854)

If you want judicial panels, then by all means live in a country with them.

Jury trials have a much higher rate of acquittal than judicial panels

Re:Bonus (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508158)

I think the accuracy is more important than the number of acquittals. If it were me, and I were innocent, I'd rather have a panel of judges than a jury of my 'peers'.

Re:Bonus (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508230)

I probably sound like an elitist prick. What I really mean is that a jury trial can be a bit of a roll of the dice with respect to composition. I suppose a panel of judges is to a degree as well, but I think it's much less so.

Re:Bonus (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508232)

If you are innocent, then you want a jury trial, judicial panels are more likely to find guilty.

Re:Bonus (1)

AuMatar (183847) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508154)

You can waive your right to trial by jury. Most don't, because it's advantageous to have 12 people with less knowledge of the law and more likely to be tricked by lawyers.

Re:Bonus (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34507912)

Having sat through multiple jury selections, I've concluded that our society is actually full of half-wits who waste everyone's time by asking the lawyers from both sides about caveats imposed by an endless list of hypothetical scenarios. "Well, what if the defendent did X? I don't think I could sentence him to jail for life for doing X." Hell, the lawyer just asked you if you could understand and interpret a specific law and apply the punishment prescribed for violating that law. He didn't give you any details about the alleged crime yet. Our society is overrun with idiots, and I could NEVER find a jury of my intellectual peers.

Re:Bonus (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507680)

> with some judges now confiscating all phones and computers from jurors when they enter the courtroom

Gosh, and I just needed something to motivate me more to participate in juror duty.

Yeah, god forbid we actually participate in the judicial system we love to bash so much around here.

Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (-1, Troll)

Immostlyharmless (1311531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507426)

The internet and connectivity everywhere is here to stay.
Get with the fucking program already and realize things change and that its time to recognize reality and follow suit.
Thanks!

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (5, Insightful)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507458)

It is, and the problem has been dealt with already. It's an issue of jurors not following the orders they've been given. Jurors are ordered not to investigate the case or speak with anybody about it while the case is ongoing. After deliberation you can speak freely about your thoughts, but up until then you're ordered to avoid coming into contact with any information related to the case where possible, and report any possible exposure to the bailiff, so that the judge and attorneys are aware of anything which could compromise the verdict later on.

The bigger problem is that the jury pool ends up being people that are less educated or retired and don't necessarily get shown a lot of respect by the politicians that require them to be there. The court staff does treat jurros well typically, but it's hard to feel appreciated when you're being asked to lose so much money to serve.

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (1)

grim4593 (947789) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507600)

parent++; I am losing tons of money by not being at work for two weeks and the court only pays a bit more money than travel, parking, and eating expenses.

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (2)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507782)

You are also losing tons of money by living in a country that wants income taxes. If you are unwilling to pay your dues to your country...please leave.

Also, judges for the most part are understanding of hardship exemptions. In your average court in your average week, there are far more potential jurors than will be needed...if I trial is expected to be long , they usually ask if it would pose an undue hardship on you to be in court for 3 weeks or whatever (such as having an employer who won't compensate you for the time). You can't really lie about this but if it is true, the judge will release you if there are enough other potentials.

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (3, Informative)

Bigjeff5 (1143585) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507748)

The bigger problem is that the jury pool ends up being people that are less educated or retired and don't necessarily get shown a lot of respect by the politicians that require them to be there.

Citation?

I was just on a jury about a year ago and the average age was somewhere around 30-35, I think there was one person close to 60, maybe two in their 50's, and three of us in our 20's.

I was actually kind of surprised at how "average joe" everyone was, while still being a pretty diverse group.

There was only one retiree in the group, and the vast majority was college educated. This same distribution was roughly true of the people prior to jury selection, too (you know, where they gather everyone up before sending off to various court rooms for selection). There weren't a lot of old or apparently uneducated people.

Your blanket statement simply does not hold up with my personal experience at all, and since you cite no references, I call bullshit.

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (2)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507956)

My wife was called to JD this week. On Monday, as the initial screening began, the first group to be dismissed was felons. Per her report, about 10% of the people present got up and left at that. Your jury pool reflects the jurisdiction from which it is called.

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34508152)

I was just on a jury about a year ago and the average age was somewhere around 30-35, I think there was one person close to 60, maybe two in their 50's, and three of us in our 20's.

Yeah, I guess an average joe might think that 20+20+20+50+50+60 divided by 6 is between 30 and 35....

(And that's being generous with the "20s, 50s")

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (2)

munky99999 (781012) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508238)

You ask for citation beginning of post. Then conclude he fails because he didnt give citation? Are all internet comments now requiring that they have applicable citations page now for all posts?

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (1, Troll)

Immostlyharmless (1311531) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508038)

This is a control issue, and they recognize that its much more difficult to control someone who has access to infinite amounts of information at their fingertips. I know, it sucks for the judges and lawyers that they can't exercise their type A personalities and run the whole thing as a racket anymore, but they seriously need to get over it. You can mod me as a troll if you want to, but the simple fact is, that law and legal procedures is merely another avenue where access is going to be a game changer. They can either realize it, and change the rules of the game to adapt, or they can spend endless and countless hours fighting against it, probably by way of what amounts to draconian force, and still lose in the end.

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (4, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507476)

In a similar vein, it's not like things have really changed. I bet just as many people talked about the case with friends and family, heard things they weren't supposed to, and had just as many pre-trial prejudices before the connected age as they do now. It's just that the new methods of communication leave a trail that public, near permanent, and easily searchable.

So, in my opinion, the courts can either just throw out the random cases where the jurors are too stupid to hide their misconduct, or they can use this as a learning experience to find new ways to reduce that misconduct. I'm hoping that it's both, leaning towards the latter, but the US judicial system isn't always the most agile.

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (2)

EvanED (569694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507668)

In a similar vein, it's not like things have really changed. I bet just as many people talked about the case with friends and family, heard things they weren't supposed to, and had just as many pre-trial prejudices before the connected age as they do now. It's just that the new methods of communication leave a trail that public, near permanent, and easily searchable.

I disagree; I think it's also a scale issue. Now instead of talking about the case with their husband or wife and maybe a couple friends, they talk about it with everyone who's following them on Twitter or friends with them on Facebook. Instead of a few people, it's dozens.

And for all the denying this fact that people seem to do around here, making things easily searchable makes a big difference. If I'm on a jury, don't care about my instructions, and am curious what the press said about the case, it's entirely likely that I'll be curious to just type the guy's name into Google while I wouldn't have been curious enough to go to the local library and start pulling back issues of the local newspaper.

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (1)

ottothecow (600101) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507806)

+1

You used to have to go to a library to do your research on weird case-law...now if curiosity gets the better of you, it is right at your fingertips. Also, if you are on a newsworthy case (most are not) it is much easier to just not read the newspaper or watch the evening news for a week than it is to avoid seeing things online where it can pop up in completely unrelated ares.

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (1)

martin-boundary (547041) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507504)

It's just a question of money. If you let jurors go home at the end of the day, then there's no way to control what they see or do. The solution is to keep jurors confined to hotel rooms for the full duration of the trial, or if that's too expensive in a lawsuit-addicted society like the US, to build juror barracks for this purpose.

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (1)

Golden_Rider (137548) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507664)

Isn't it fantastic to have a jury decide over somebody's fate when that jury consists of people playing Farmville while not paying any attention to what's going on during the trial.

Re:Heya politicians, judges and media moguls... (1)

xenapan (1012909) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508162)

But your Honor! this trial would cause undue burdens on me and my Farm!

Confiscations (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507446)

"with some judges now confiscating all phones and computers from jurors when they enter the courtroom."

What makes me wonder is why people would bring these things in the first place. I can understand why someone would bring a cell phone (since we bring cell phones everywhere), but why on earth would you need a computer when doing Jury duty? Or are they considering smartphones to be computers?

Re:Confiscations (1)

bamwham (1211702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507598)

To at least mitigate the effect of missing work for ... well no one knows how long. Every time I've been called I've spent 6 or more hours sitting around doing nothing. Its a bonus to have the laptop with me so at least I can keep some projects on track. No different from jurors that bring knitting, or a teacher who brings grading with them. Yes it crosses the line when one starts breaking the rules of contact with the outside world.

My wife served on a civil trial that took more than a week of her life and ended up being settled before they made a decision. I think the jurors should be permitted to bill the lawyers (and judge) for their time, for an hourly rate not more than twice their normal salary. It wouldn't fix the whole system, but it would help.

Re:Confiscations (2)

PotatoFarmer (1250696) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507610)

There can be a lot of downtime in a trial. I was recently a juror in a murder trial, and out of the 6 hours or so allotted on each day scheduling for hearings, maybe 3-4 hours total were spent in the juror box listening to testimony. The rest of the time we were locked in the deliberation room while the judge and attorneys discussed stuff.

We were not allowed to discuss any aspect of the case with each other until after closing arguments, so it was pretty common for people to pull out the phones while in the deliberation room and check email/browse/play games/whatever during these recesses.

Interestingly, we did have a case where a juror ignored the judge's admonition against outside research - she printed out a definition of "Burden of Proof" she found online and brought it into the deliberations. It was confiscated by the bailiff before anyone else could look at it and she was dismissed. We spent most of the rest of that day playing on our cellphones waiting for an alternate juror to come in.

Re:Confiscations (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507692)

Did they check if she had known the definition of this phrase before hand?

I get no looking in the media about your case, but are jurors also not supposed to educate themselves about he process of law?

Re:Confiscations (1)

mariasama16 (1895136) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507758)

That is what the judge's instructions are for, not random searches that may or may not bring up the proper legal definition.

Re:Confiscations (1)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507942)

Had she known - in fact, had she been a lawyer herself - she would likely have been prohibited from sharing that information with other jurors.

Re:Confiscations (1)

PotatoFarmer (1250696) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508106)

In our case we were given hardcopy instructions prior to beginning deliberations that included the definitions of all legal terms that were applicable, including one for burden of proof.

Basically, we were instructed to form our opinions on three things:

1. Our life experiences and education up to the point where we were sworn in as jurors and told to avoid doing outside research.
2. The evidence presented in the courtroom.
3. The definitions and instructions provided to us.

Re:Confiscations (2)

Manos_Of_Fate (1092793) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507726)

Interestingly, we did have a case where a juror ignored the judge's admonition against outside research - she printed out a definition of "Burden of Proof" she found online and brought it into the deliberations. It was confiscated by the bailiff before anyone else could look at it and she was dismissed. We spent most of the rest of that day playing on our cellphones waiting for an alternate juror to come in.

God forbid a juror actually be familiar with the law...

Re:Confiscations (1)

berzerke (319205) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508136)

God forbid a juror actually be familiar with the law...

Correct. Judges and, to a lesser extent, prosecutors like that. Makes it easier to bully a jury into delivering the verdict they want. Look up jury nullification if you doubt me.

Re:Confiscations (1)

ocdscouter (1922930) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507624)

In my experience, the people who bring laptops do so to be able to get work done over the break periods. (there may have been wifi available in the break room. I can't really recall as I mostly read during the breaks.).

Re:Confiscations (1)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507738)

perhaps to help them take notes and organize their thoughts on the content of the trial. For a lot of people, pencil and notepad are not how these things are done any more.

Re:Confiscations (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507856)

Exactly. Why bring them into the court when you are on the Jury.

You really don't need a phone in the court when on Jury duty.

There is a phone in the Jury room for out going calls (in most jurisdictions any way unless its a high profile trial) and you can't receive calls either in the Jury room or in court session.

Its usually fine to bring a phone to jury selection, but I've always been instructed to leave the phone in my car once empaneled.

Still this article is about internet research, and covers a time period when smartphones were just starting to become mainstream. Its not so much what jurors do on the phone as it is what they do on their computer in the evening.

Facebook (1)

dorkinson (1615103) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507456)

Wait until I tell my 571 friends about this!

Jury system broken? (0)

countSudoku() (1047544) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507492)

How can this be? Only our best and brightest peers get to sit in that stupid box for way too long listening to a bunch of nonsense about something they could give to shits about, then make a decision that's fair. All the peers you WOULD want to sit there (if you're the one in court) will get removed by your courtroom adversary, or themselves anyway. What's left are those that could not come up with a good excuse to get out of the duty, and have nothing but time to waste pretending to do a public service that would be better served from a pool of paid peers. Unless you have a shitload of money, then you get a good lawyer and he'll fight for some "good jurors" for you at least. Good justice is served to those that can afford it. If not, you're fucked.
AND they have to keep the jurors off the Internet. Face it, it's broken, or borken.

Re:Jury system broken? (2)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507778)

How can this be? Only our best and brightest peers get to sit in that stupid box for way too long listening to a bunch of nonsense about something they could give to shits about, then make a decision that's fair. All the peers you WOULD want to sit there (if you're the one in court) will get removed by your courtroom adversary, or themselves anyway. What's left are those that could not come up with a good excuse to get out of the duty, and have nothing but time to waste pretending to do a public service that would be better served from a pool of paid peers. Unless you have a shitload of money, then you get a good lawyer and he'll fight for some "good jurors" for you at least. Good justice is served to those that can afford it. If not, you're fucked.
AND they have to keep the jurors off the Internet. Face it, it's broken, or borken.

Have you ever actually served on a jury? I hear statements like yours often when this topic comes up, and it's just wrong. I have only my own experience to base my opinion on, but in everything I've been involved in the jurors were intelligent, educated people who wanted to see that justice was served.

Re:Jury system broken? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507914)

Paid peers? Paid by Who? Paid How much?

The current system is a terrible one.
Except for all of the other systems.

Perhaps you have a better solution that you have thought through well enough to convince the rest of society?

constitutional issues? (1)

Maskirovka (255712) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507508)

By being part of a jury pool, you are basically imprisoned during the jury time. Do anything beyond sneezing or don't show up and you get contempt of court and a fine or jail (judge discretion). It is not optional. Anyone see a problem with that?

Re:constitutional issues? (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507570)

Not really. if you want to have the privilege of being tried by peers, then you need to man up and do your duty.

Frankly, I think we should have compulsory military service too. Then maybe we might think more about going to war with everyone if it wasn't predominately poor minorities serving.

*breaks out the flame-proof suit*

Re:constitutional issues? (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507592)

Frankly, I think we should have compulsory military service too.

It's called a draft, and it happens every time a legal war is declared.

Re:constitutional issues? (4, Interesting)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507706)

And it still manages to miss the rich folks that don't want to serve. Go check what our previous president was doing during vietnam, the one before him skipped out on that too I think.

Re:constitutional issues? (1)

EdZ (755139) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507708)

I think he meant more like a year (or similar) of compulsory training & tour of duty once you reach the age of majority.

Re:constitutional issues? (1)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507882)

Switzerland does this-every able-bodied male is automatically in the national army and has training for a few weeks a year. I think it's a fine idea, but in the case of the USA, I think the logistics involved would be too complicated.

Re:constitutional issues? (2)

Anonymous Psychopath (18031) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507844)

Frankly, I think we should have compulsory military service too.

It's called a draft, and it happens every time a legal war is declared.

And sometimes when war hasn't been formally declared. The last legally declared war was WWII. The last time there was compulsory military service was Vietnam.

Re:constitutional issues? (2)

cob666 (656740) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508022)

No it is NOT called a draft. A draft is put into place in order to get more people into the armed forces when required. What the parent poster is talking about is conscription and there are a few European countries that still use it. It usually works by mandating that once you turn 18 you must serve x years in a branch of the military. I think this would be a GOOD thing but I imagine it would never get through congress.

Re:constitutional issues? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34507760)

p>Frankly, I think we should have compulsory military service too. Then maybe we might think more about going to war with everyone if it wasn't predominately poor minorities serving.

That would only work properly if it was compulsory for members of congress to serve as infantrymen. I am sure that such a law would meet no resistance.

Re:constitutional issues? (2)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507892)

Then maybe we might think more about going to war with everyone if it wasn't predominately poor minorities serving.

Well, MAYBE.

How many US Senators have "Served" In the military? Congressmen as well? Presidential Candidates? You'll find quite a few (though not all) had spent SOME time in the Military, though often never in any sense of real danger. Or at least, that's what Hollywood, Conspiracy theories, and pop culture in general has led me to believe.

That whole idea could backfire because the ones in power could feel as though the law is on their side, and that they wouldn't need to actually justify the wars they wage. At least this way - the military strength can be limitted to those who are poor and not so much the middle class.

Re:constitutional issues? (5, Informative)

OldeTimeGeek (725417) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507674)

Unless you're sequestered (very unusual because of the expense), you aren't "imprisoned", all you're asked to do is not talk about the trial nor gather any information about the matters being disputed. Why is this a problem? Is it so impossible to tell people that you can't talk about it?

Of course you may be found in contempt of court if you don't show up without notification. Trials are expensive and the schedules are always packed. The trial may have to be delayed because you can't be troubled to show up. And you feel that this is wrong?

I've served on multiple juries, some trials lasting multiples of weeks. In that time all of my friends accepted that I wouldn't talk about the trial, I didn't run home and look up the particulars of the case (can't say that I wouldn't have loved to, I just didn't) and didn't feel imprisoned. I guess something's wrong with me...

Re:constitutional issues? (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507742)

No, I don't.

A citizen of the United States has 3 civic duties:
1. Vote as wisely as you can.
2. Serve on juries when called upon to do so.
3. Contribute funds to pay for the government i.e. taxes.

Some of them are a pain in the butt - nobody likes paying taxes, for instance. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't be willing to do the job that Americans fought and died to have. I've done it, and it's really not all that difficult. You go in in the morning, hang out with a group of strangers you're eventually going to know pretty well, listen carefully to evidence presented to you, and decide whether the state has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant has committed the crime he is charged with committing. It may take a while, but it's important to do and do well, for the benefit of the defendant, victim, and society. Because it someday might be your future on the line, and you'd want your jury to do the same.

Re:constitutional issues? (1)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508086)

Weird thing is I am in my mid 30's and I've never been called for jury duty, ever.

Re:constitutional issues? (5, Interesting)

demonlapin (527802) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508100)

I, and a lot of people I know, would experience (and cause) extraordinary inconvenience if required to serve on a jury. My father-in-law is a salesman without salary; if he's empaneled, his family will do without. My brother-in-law is a lawyer; if he's impaneled, his clients will not be represented. My wife is a doctor; if she's empaneled, all her patients will have their appointments canceled with minimal to no notice.

I don't like paying taxes, but at least I can predict them. I could tolerate a fixed period of essentially unpaid service to the state if I could know start and end dates six months ahead.

Re:constitutional issues? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507924)

Suggest an alternative.

Re:constitutional issues? (3, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508168)

By being part of a jury pool, you are basically imprisoned during the jury time.

No, you aren't. While I haven't actually been imprisoned, I have been inside a prison and I have served on juries, and they are not even remotely similar.

It will only get worse, but is that a bad thing? (1)

increment1 (1722312) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507528)

This is going to be a very tough issue for the courts to resolve since there will always be a strong desire for some jurors to do their own investigations while they are grappling with a tough verdict. I think that many of us would be very inclined to do our own research if we were jurors if just to determine which set of expert witnesses (defense or prosecution) is more correct.

It would be very hard to not lookup details, precedents, and opinion on cases which you are weighing and ultimately responsible for the future life of an individual. I am actually surprised that this type of issue does not happen more often (and, in fact, it probably does happen a lot more often than the numbers reported in the article, as the article itself hints at).

Re:It will only get worse, but is that a bad thing (3, Insightful)

Bucky24 (1943328) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507606)

The Jury, as far as I know, isn't supposed to investigate. The investigation has already been done by the prosecution and defense. The Jury is supposed to sit, listen, and make a decision based on what they are given.

I think it might even be illegal for a Juror to do an independent investigation.

Re:It will only get worse, but is that a bad thing (4, Informative)

increment1 (1722312) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507684)

You are correct, jurors are forbidden from doing their own investigation. I did not mean to imply that they were allowed to, my point was that there is a strong incentive for them to do so, regardless of the rules.

When making an important decision, it is natural to desire as much information as possible in order to make the best possible decision. If jurors question what they have heard in the courtroom, or have doubts about particular aspects, then they will have an incentive to research the issue on their own.

I would be intrigued to learn if any studies had been done about such cases that show whether juries who broke them rules in this fashion arrive at "better" or worse verdicts (where it is possible to determine what a "better" verdict is).

Re:It will only get worse, but is that a bad thing (2)

nomadic (141991) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507790)

Interestingly enough, the original juries in English law WERE supposed to investigate.

Re:It will only get worse, but is that a bad thing (2)

NoSig (1919688) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507794)

Is there no way for the jurors to have any input into what goes on in court? Have they no way to e.g. in some way cause a question to be asked of a witness by someone?

Re:It will only get worse, but is that a bad thing (1)

wygit (696674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507918)

It WOULD be hard to not look up stuff when you went home in the evening, on a multi-day trial.

It's really to hear the people saying "Just turn off your damn phone!" and say "Right on!" but a lot of these juror misconduct cases have been about a juror looking things up online, and then using that information when deliberating in the jury room later.

I'm so used to looking up ANYTHING I'm wondering about... but tour rules are that you're not supposed to base your decision on anything you didn't see or hear in the courtroom.

Interesting discussions here. http://goo.gl/zc77H [goo.gl]

They should take them to court... (1)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507530)

...and have other Jurors determine their fate. Then we create an infinate loop and cause a DOS to the court system.

Kidnap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34507560)

Instead of kidnapping random people and reducing their entire perception to the proceedings of the case, why not save some time and use the prisoners we already have?

Re:Kidnap (1)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507888)

So we should just let people who have no respect for the law decide who is right and who is wrong when it comes to the law?

What could possibly go wrong?

I have a solution... (1, Troll)

Haedrian (1676506) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507602)

Instead of picking random people who aren't smart enough to evade duty - forcing them a day (or a few) off work et cetera - why not instead EMPLOY people who are actually responsable, and intelligent enough in order to properly take important decisions? You could call them, uh... judges... instead.

Problem solved.

Re:I have a solution... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34507696)

Sure, Or, we could just assume everyone is guilty if they were stupid enough to get arrested and short cut thing that way instead. Now we're making progress!

Re:I have a solution... (1)

Jakester2K (612607) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507746)

Or train them from an early age to do it correctly.

Kinda like Robert Heinlein's "Fair Witnesses."

Re:I have a solution... (1)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507900)

If you were going to pay people anyway, why not just pay the regular people who are randomly selected? And by pay I mean actual pay, as in what they would have been getting anyway, perhaps with a little extra.

Re:I have a solution... (1)

Jakester2K (612607) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507952)

Dude, what are you, nuts?

That might result in lawyers getting less!!!

Re:I have a solution... (2)

igreaterthanu (1942456) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508080)

What's wrong with that? How many times do all the smart people have to make up an excuse because it will cost them too much financially?

Oh no! (1, Informative)

brainboyz (114458) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507608)

Heaven forbid a juror look up the definition of a word, or be well-informed about something referenced in the case!

Re:Oh no! (2)

Golden_Rider (137548) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507716)

That's not how it works. You are not supposed to do any research yourself. You are supposed to decide based on the research done by the prosecution/defense, and not look up stuff on wikipedia or other websites.

Re:Oh no! (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507964)

The point is that if they have a question they ask the judge and not a possibly incorrect definition or other false, misleading, or legally disallowed information on the web. All information a juror gets about a case must come from the judge or the courtroom.

That'll hold off the issue for 10 years (1)

michaelmalak (91262) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507734)

some judges now confiscating all phones and computers from jurors

That'll work great until cell phones start being implanted surgically [howstuffworks.com] .

90 trials in 11 years? (1)

icebike (68054) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507788)

Considering the number of trials in the US, (26,948 in State courts in 2005 for example, so throw in federal trials an round it off to 300,000 over the period amounts to about 3/10ths of 1 percent.

While nothing to hand wave away, it still suggests that the problem is tiny, and the vast majority of jurors do their best to follow the rules.

Only the stupid get caught at this. Those that feel that every facet of their life must be tweeted of facebooked or texted somewhere.

Others may do "research" without getting caught.

I don't worry so much about the facebook posters and tweeters (information outbound usually does not damage a trial) as I worry about the clandestine researchers drawing conclusions using internet sources and facts not in evidence.

A more informed jury? (1)

dlevitan (132062) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507812)

There seems to be two general categories of Internet communications when it comes to trials. One is making comments about the process or trial. This I think has always happened to some extent, but was never made public (i.e. telling your spouse about your jury service). The addition of the Internet has made this more of a problem, because in the end, it is supposed to be the juror's decision about guilt, not him/her and the readers of his/her blog.

On the other hand, looking up terms or information about the trial, I think, only makes for a more informed jury. Otherwise, your only piece of information is from the prosecutor and defense lawyer, which are both extremely biased opinions. Granted, jurors have to be careful to judge information on the web carefully, but we're asking them to do the same thing in the courtroom as well.

Re:A more informed jury? (1)

EvanED (569694) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508234)

On the other hand, looking up terms or information about the trial, I think, only makes for a more informed jury. Otherwise, your only piece of information is from the prosecutor and defense lawyer, which are both extremely biased opinions. Granted, jurors have to be careful to judge information on the web carefully, but we're asking them to do the same thing in the courtroom as well.

There are some extremely important differences in both questions of law and questions of fact (particularly the latter) between the two situations.

In the case of questions of law, there are very few people who I think are equipped to read, understand, and determine the applicability of existing statutes and court decisions. I have a small interest in the law, did mock trial for a couple years and have read many opinions, and I wouldn't put a whole lot of trust myself to have done enough investigation into most matters to determine whether a particular opinion is controlling in a case at hand.

In the case of questions of fact, it's even more important. It's not just a matter of "you have to decide how trustworthy it is" because both sides have the right to cross examine the opposing witnesses. Further, there are very good reasons to suppress certain evidence even if it leads to a false acquittal. If you read an article that says "the defendent's blood was found at the scene" but that was never brought up at trial, why was that? Was it because there was a telephone-game-style miscommunication from the source to the newspaper? Was it because that evidence was later found to not be trustworthy? Was it because that evidence was suppressed because it was gathered illegally? In almost all cases, the only fair and safe option is to disregard any externally-gathered information.

Jurors should be fully informed (1)

Mike Van Pelt (32582) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507866)

... and not just about the "jury nullification" thing.

In some cases, judges have withheld important, material information from the jury in order to get the verdict they wanted.

The two cases I'm thinking of, one involved some ridiculous charges brought by everyone's favorite criminal UFO cult against one of its critics. The other was a medical marijuana case where the judge concealed from the jury that it was a medical marijuana case, and that the doctor on trial had fully complied with state law. In both cases, after the trial, several jurors said that they were horrified, and that if they had had any idea of the full facts, they would have voted differently.

Tempest in a teapot? (1)

micheas (231635) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507874)

While this would suck if it was your $20,000 in legal fees (average for a four day trial in the US) that just went up in smoke because of a twitter post, is one case in every other state per year a crisis?

This seems like a tempest in a teapot, something for judges to deal with, and worry about, but San Francisco, California Seats hundreds of juries a year. One medium sized city. this doesn't seem to be an issue beyond being a new problem for judges. A comparative study about which Jury instructions seem to result in greater compliance seems like a reasonable result of this data.

Paid Jurors and an Electronic Court (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34507928)

I've thought many times during the farce that is jury selection that wouldn't it be easier to pay willing people to do the job. That or at least let the volunteers go first. I'm sure there's plenty of folks that would do it without being randomly picked first. You'd have to filter out some bad eggs planted there by others, but they pretty much have to do that anyway.

Also I was listening to the latest This American Life where they were interviewing the lone holdout on one of the counts in the Blagojevich trial (which why the vote had to be unanimous to stick is beyond me). It didn't take much for the press to figure out it was her and they started camping outside her home, stalking her and the like.

So my thought is, why aren't jurors put in individual rooms with a video feed to the courtroom. Let them watch and then give them an electronic voting booth style poll. Keep it anonymous as to who sees what and who's voting on what. Heck, have them decide on multiple cases and randomly choose which jurors from the pool count. You could even separate when the trial takes place and when the jury sees it. ...and one day the jurors could do this from home over them inter-webby-tubes...

The courts are getting what they are asking for (1)

erroneus (253617) | more than 3 years ago | (#34507978)

The courts and attorneys are very selective about who they choose for a jury. They want the least intelligent and most impressionable people they can find. They don't want people who can think and reason well. They want people who will follow orders and do as they are told. And if they happen to know what a jury is for, they will not be selected.

The people who fit the profile are also likely to be stupid enough to have an online profile and to openly share information about themselves and what they are doing to the entire planet. (I'd be interested to know what percentage of slashdot users actually have and maintain social networking accounts. I suppose in a way, Slashdot might be considered a social networking site too, in which case I would be a hypocrite... oh well.) From what I have seen, those who are involved in the social networking sites are rather addicted to them to the point that being disconnected may bring about physical discomfort. Expecting THOSE people to not mention everything that is going on in their lives is simply unrealistic.

It is time something changes and I would prefer it if more intelligent, logical and reasonable people were allowed to be on juries.

90? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34508004)

90 verdicts does not seem to be a high number considering the number of cases in the US. How many verdicts were overturned due to juror misconduct that did not involve the internet? This is yet another sensationalist story.
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