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Should Smartphones Be Allowed In Court?

Soulskill posted about 3 years ago | from the sorry-your-honor-my-app-says-he's-guilty dept.

The Courts 218

coondoggie writes "Federal courts have been debating how much freedom users of smartphones and portable wireless devices in general should have in a federal courthouse. Some say they should be banned outright, while others say they should be allowed, but their use curtailed (PDF). Unregulated use of smartphones has resulted in mistrials, exclusion of jurors and fines in some case."

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218 comments

Well... (2, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | about 3 years ago | (#35646258)

50% of the time jurors are just forced to sit there while nothing is happening. They're not allowed to do much, so why not let them play Angry Birds?

Re:Well... (1)

TaoPhoenix (980487) | about 3 years ago | (#35646388)

Too bad you're a nice guy. Now put an Evil hat on.

Let them play Angry Jurors!

Or just watch Dominic Tocci's flash creations in succession. The sum total of them will disqualify everyone.

Re:Well... (4, Informative)

ls671 (1122017) | about 3 years ago | (#35646394)

Don't forget jurors are sometimes sequestered with no access to any type of news so they are not "contaminated" by mass media or other type of news. At least in those cases, smart phones would be a big no-no.

They are sometimes allowed to get newspapers although where the articles regarding the trial they are involved in are removed when they are sequestered for weeks.

if they do that then endup playing don't drop the (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35647042)

if they do that then end up playing don't drop the soap.

Re:if they do that then endup playing don't drop t (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about 3 years ago | (#35647140)

Nah, they are sequestered on an hotel floor and they are allowed to visit female jurors in other rooms to exchange on the trial or other matters...

Precisely (1)

zoomshorts (137587) | about 3 years ago | (#35647546)

Allowing idiots who serve on juries any access that may sway their judgement is just wrong.
I have served on juries and would not anyone to get their judgement colored in any way, the
stupidity of the prosecutors is more than enough retardedness.

Re:Well... (5, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | about 3 years ago | (#35646494)

Perhaps they should spend that idle time pondering the importance of the decisions they will be making and the impacts those decisions will have on the various parties involved -- and taking stock of their own capacity to be objective, their own internalized biases, and personal foibles, in order to offer a fairer verdict at the end of the process. Instead of playing Angry Birds. Just a thought.

Re:Well... (2)

MrEricSir (398214) | about 3 years ago | (#35646662)

Because Angry Birds requires so much concentration?

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35646842)

I think his point was that the trial requires the concentration.

Phrased differently: Whoosh.

Re:Well... (4, Insightful)

rolfwind (528248) | about 3 years ago | (#35646698)

Yeah, but after 5 minutes thought, then what?

It's not really a surprise no one wants to be a juror, you're treated almost like the prisoner in some case, cut off from the world and with shitty pay to boot.

Re:Well... (2)

ls671 (1122017) | about 3 years ago | (#35646880)

I totally agree, the average quality of jurors is very mild. This is why the courts should be allowed to pick jurors from a pool they choose.

This is how it currently works technically. But in real life, all you have to say to be disqualified from a juror role is that you can't stand any type of criminality and that any criminal should be sentenced to death even if he is only suspected of a crime.

Getting paid more and getting more advantages might indeed refrain yourself from doing just that but it is a hard to tackle problem: How much should we pay a juror earning 250,000$ a year compared to one earning 50,000$ a year, especially if the person works as a freelancer ?

 

Re:Well... (3, Informative)

PCM2 (4486) | about 3 years ago | (#35647450)

But in real life, all you have to say to be disqualified from a juror role is that you can't stand any type of criminality and that any criminal should be sentenced to death even if he is only suspected of a crime.

When's the last time you sat on a jury? I once saw a guy try to pull the old "I hate all niggers" routine, which is only slightly more obvious than what you suggest. The judge asked him whether he wouldn't be able to put aside his preconceptions and evaluate the case fairly. He said no he would not. The judge reminded him of his obligations as a juror. He persisted with his tactic -- which, no doubt, the judge had seen a hundred times before. The judge ended up holding him in contempt of court.

Re:Well... (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about 3 years ago | (#35647810)

Agreed, I might have expressed it in a too simplistic way. Yet, by being just a little more subtle, it isn't that hard to get disqualified. Did you ever had a friend who was a victim in similar cases, etc. ?

Most people realted to the matter will tell you that it isn't that hard to get disqualified, shame on me if I made it sound too simplistic.

Bottom line, people earning 250,000$ a year or more will call their layer for a good speech to get out of it so in the end, the jurors aren't really representative of all spheres of society like the spirit of the law intended in the first place.

P.S. I heard of cases similar to what you stated before so thanks for pondering me.

Re:Well... (1)

ls671 (1122017) | about 3 years ago | (#35647876)

Furthermore, bottom line, if you resist to the idea of being a juror, you should be disqualified because you might impair the jury for revenge. This is the spirit of the law. I could plead that the judge forcing you to be a juror when you don't want to is indeed committing an offense with regards to the spirit of the law. This would be sufficient grounds for mistrial if everything was going by the book.

 

Re:Well... (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 3 years ago | (#35647932)

Well, if you're not a moron, it's still not too hard. I have numerous beliefs that I'm pretty sure would disqualify me from any criminal jury (jury nullification is probably the most generally-applicable, although a complete lack of belief in the credibility of LEOs should do the job just as well). A contempt citation for failure to agree with the judge isn't going to hold, anyway, and I've got enough money and time to make the judge regret it if he issues one.

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35646856)

Yeah.... That angry birds does send the wrong message about vigilante justice.... Not something we need in a court room!

Re:Well... (1)

LordKronos (470910) | about 3 years ago | (#35646934)

Perhaps they should spend that idle time pondering the importance of the decisions they will be making and the impacts those decisions will have on the various parties involved -- and taking stock of their own capacity to be objective, their own internalized biases, and personal foibles, in order to offer a fairer verdict at the end of the process. Instead of playing Angry Birds. Just a thought.

How exactly do I ponder anything at all about the decision I will be making in the many, many hours I sit there in the waiting room, before I've even been selected to go into a courtroom to see if maybe I might get picked for a trial?

Re:Well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35647008)

Interesting point, but no. Lots of downtime is routine for jurors, as is having an idle way to pass it other than judicial navel-gazing. Last jury pool I was in, the judge advised us to bring a book to read during all the waiting. This wasn't in the waiting room, mind you, but the actual voir dire proceedings in the courtroom. I'm sure he would have said the same thing once the trial started.

banned outright (4, Interesting)

nurb432 (527695) | about 3 years ago | (#35646264)

No different then cameras or other recording devices in most courts.

Leave them at the door.

Re:banned outright (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35646580)

not to mention it makes it easy and tempting to look up or even just happen by related news or information that might be prejudicial

Re:banned outright (2)

fishbowl (7759) | about 3 years ago | (#35646814)

I had a court confiscate the book I was reading (it was Dostoevsky, The Idiot, but I actually don't think it was based on the content.)
I didn't mind being chosen for jury duty, provided I would be allowed to read during the incredibly long, boring downtime you get where there is nothing to do but wait. But once they took away my book, it set me on a path of trying to get out of serving. (This was easy, they asked me what magazines I read, and without even lying I have a pretty subversive list :-)

Re:banned outright (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35646914)

Yeah! Why would we want the workings of one entire branch of our Government (Judicial) to become public knowledge? In fact, we need to stop letting the public attend trials. Let's make all trial closed-doors, secret trials.

More seriously- why the hate on recording in the courtroom? As long as it doesn't disturb the session, why not let people record?

Re:banned outright (1)

nurb432 (527695) | about 3 years ago | (#35647022)

Who said closed door? Who said secret? Not I.

You do realize that there are these things called 'court reporters', who's job it is to report all that is said, right? You also realize that in most situations you can go watch for yourself?

No cameras. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35646268)

Many courts ban cameras, so this automatically excludes smartphones with cameras.

Ban the thing (1, Insightful)

JonySuede (1908576) | about 3 years ago | (#35646274)

Ban the thing and surround the whole stage with a strong Faraday cage and install repeater for doctor pager. The court is supposed be a spectacle that stands out of time. It is not something of the common man, it should be grand, imposing and restrictive to ensure a certain level of deference.

Re:Ban the thing (2)

msobkow (48369) | about 3 years ago | (#35646528)

By all means ban smartphones from the court. The cameras most of them have are already illegal in many jurisdictions, and there is nothing you can do with a smartphone that you should be doing in court.

For that matter, I'd say ban cellphones period. The court is not a place to be text messaging, and you sure as hell aren't going to be taking calls anyhow.

I would like to hear both sides... (0)

bogaboga (793279) | about 3 years ago | (#35646326)

...for and against before I provide my opinion.

Re:I would like to hear both sides... (1)

c0lo (1497653) | about 3 years ago | (#35646444)

...for and against before I provide my opinion.

I'd like a jury to decide... but... err... should that jury be allowed... hmmm!?

All cell phones have been banned (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35646332)

in my local courthouse for several years, due to fear of courtroom observers using texting to coordinate witness testimony. That decision was made when the clerk of court's teenage son showed him that he could text with his phone in his shirt pocket.

Re:All cell phones have been banned (2)

mmj638 (905944) | about 3 years ago | (#35646970)

Strangely enough, that skill seems to be universal to all people born later than about 1990, and yet it's something I've never known someone my age (30) to be able to do. It'd be certainly impossible on my touch phone.

A school teacher friend fills me in on these things. The other thing that sets such young people apart is sending 50-200 texts a day, whereas I'd be lucky if I sent 5. Who knew - pre-paid plans aimed at teens with less than 1 cent per text are readily available. And they have their phones on silent or vibrate.

Back in my day - I don't remember what we did. Just talk in class I guess. Occasionally passed a paper note. But we didn't have that constant connectedness with classmates that they can get with text messages.

Re:All cell phones have been banned (1)

PCM2 (4486) | about 3 years ago | (#35647460)

Same here. In the City of San Francisco, cell phones and other mobile devices are allowed in the jury assembly room, and they even provide free WiFi, but everything must be switched off once you're inside the courtroom.

Shoot the Offenders. (1)

pro151 (2021702) | about 3 years ago | (#35646344)

Post signs on the entrances to the court room. "Turn all cell phones off now." "Offenders will be subject to the following penalties" 1st offense - phone will be confiscated for 30 days. 2nd offense - Phone will be confiscated for 60 days and passed among inmates for free use. 3rd offense - Immediate execution by Bailiff.

Re:Shoot the Offenders. (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 3 years ago | (#35647264)

How about "Self-righteous assholes pulling power trips on the citizens of the state will be turned over to the inmates for their amusement"? Seriously, it's one thing to ban the use of a phone during a trial, but potential jurors spend an enormous amount of time waiting before they're even picked.

Wrong (3, Informative)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 3 years ago | (#35646350)

It's the behavior that's wrong, not the technology. You can ban smartphones, but then you'll be banning tablets, then watches, then glasses with microdisplays, etc.

Treat the problem, not the symptom.

Re:Wrong (5, Insightful)

SilverHatHacker (1381259) | about 3 years ago | (#35646604)

Problem with that is that our culture is gaining a sense of entitlement thanks to the "always connected" fad. How do you convince people that it's wrong to use tech in courtrooms when everything else is telling them that it's their God-given right to have 24-7 access to Twitter? I too believe in treating the disease before the symptoms, but this goes much deeper than - as one poster put it - jurors playing Angry Birds. People first need to realise that just because they can do something doesn't always mean they should, which may sound like common sense but seems to be lacking in the general population.

Re:Wrong (2)

MobileTatsu-NJG (946591) | about 3 years ago | (#35646696)

How do you convince people that it's wrong to use tech in courtrooms when everything else is telling them that it's their God-given right to have 24-7 access to Twitter?

Welp, we did teach people not to smoke inside.

Re:Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35647288)

do you convince people that it's wrong to use tech in courtrooms when everything else is telling them that it's their God-given right to have 24-7 access to Twitter?

That person, generally in a black robe, and usually behind a large-ish desk of sorts says "don't do that in here."

If they don't listen to that person, they will learn to.

Re:Wrong (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 3 years ago | (#35647290)

There's nothing wrong with the behaviors - as someone pointed out upthread, he had a book confiscated by the court. Trying to kill time until chosen to serve or dismissed is perfectly respectable - it's not as though the judges are required not to listen to the radio in chambers while doing a bit of paperwork before a court session.

Yes, when a trial is going on, the jurors should be paying attention. But until then?

Re:Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35647444)

In Western Massachusetts, a juror was recently [February 2011] removed because he tweeted. He knew it was wrong; he tweeted "I am in contempt of court, de facto if not de jure."

After the judge removed him from the jury panel, he complained to the press, claiming (in contradiction to his tweet) that "he was 'certainly not in contempt of court.' He said his tweet was meant as a 'joke' that had 'absolutely nothing to do with this trial in particular,' or his feelings about the case."

So yeah, there's a huge sense of "always connected entitlement" out there.

P.S. - it was serious case - a priest/child rape case.

Re:Wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35647576)

Problem with that is that our culture is gaining a sense of entitlement thanks to the "always connected" fad How do you convince people that it's wrong to use tech in courtrooms when everything else is telling them that it's their God-given right to have 24-7 access to Twitter?

Really? Cause that isn't my experience at all having just served in lower Manhattans Federal Court (the real deal you know with the Law and Order style setup and stair case to court house to boot). Well I decided not to take a laptop or anything fun even though they actually encouraged it openly every day I was there, as long as you aren't inside a court room and not talking about a case they DO NOT CARE. Hell i spent most my time at a titty bar down town on 3 hour lunches so I'm not sure how dangerous Angry Birds is but there's worse things to do during paid jury duty!!!\.

Re:Wrong (1)

metlin (258108) | about 3 years ago | (#35647770)

Well, here is the thing -- technology is inevitable. Imagine when wetware becomes common, and your brain is always "connected".

While misuse -- such as playing a game -- shouldn't be condoned, it is no different than reading a book, doodling on a notepad, or staring off into space. If folks are uninterested, there is nothing you can do to get them interested.

What's the status quo? (2)

guspasho (941623) | about 3 years ago | (#35646352)

Isn't the status quo currently that judges decide whether to allow them or not? Why not let them continue to do so? If you're going to ban them outright, then why? And what possible justification is there for not banning notepads and pens and other recording devices?

Re:What's the status quo? (5, Informative)

Ruke (857276) | about 3 years ago | (#35646504)

A pen and notepad is not a broadcasting device. And use of many other recording devices is restricted: you will often only see hand-drawn illustrations of court cases because cameras were not allowed in the courthouse.

Re:What's the status quo? (5, Informative)

CynicTheHedgehog (261139) | about 3 years ago | (#35646706)

When I served on a jury the bailiff collected our cell phones before the trial and gave them back afterward. They also provided all writing materials and collected them when the trial was over. Seems perfectly reasonable to me.

Alternative approach (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 3 years ago | (#35646412)

Stop letting judges restrict the information and arguments to which jurors are exposed.

Re:Alternative approach (1, Insightful)

Locke2005 (849178) | about 3 years ago | (#35646498)

I'm pretty sure allowing jurors to watch "Fox News" and it's ilk would constitute ample grounds for a mistrial. You don't think media can sway people's opinion? If it can't, then the $1 trillion a year companies are spending on television advertising is a complete waste of money...

Re:Alternative approach (2, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 3 years ago | (#35646624)

You don't think media can sway people's opinion?

The whole system of jury trial is based upon the assumption that 12 jurors collectively make a pretty wise choice. By having a judge and attorneys filter the arguments and evidence to which a jury is exposed, they're substituting their own wisdom for that of jurors. Especially when judges refuse to allow defense lawyers to suggest juries consider jury-nullification of a law to be a legitimate exercise of their powers.

That being said, I would suggest that jurors also be given an opportunity to present questions to the lawyers. For example, "I heard on Fox News that the defendant was seen walking around with a gun after the murder. You never mentioned a gun. Was Fox News incorrect on this point?"

I'd say in general, I don't like elitist tyranny that judges can impose over juries, and I'm looking for ways to undo it.

Re:Alternative approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35647352)

I would suggest that jurors also be given an opportunity to present questions to the lawyers.

I strongly second this.

I served on a jury once, and the trial concerned two people who lived in a house with a massive marijuana grow operation in the basement. One of the defendants was found to have clipped out ads for information on how to grow marijuana indoors, so the whole jury unanimously agreed it was very unlikely that he had nothing to do with the grow operation in the basement. But the other... how possible is it to live in a house and not know there is a massive grow operation in the basement? Does marijuana give off a strong odor? I mean, if the crop was pine trees, the smell of the pine needles would have filled the house. Nobody on the jury had any experience with marijuana plants, so we had no idea how to evaluate the claim that the guy lived there but had no clue. We figured he was probably lying but we ruled not guilty, because we had a reasonable doubt.

I really, really wanted to be able to submit a question to the lawyers, and I don't understand why this is forbidden. I would have asked "Do marijuana plants give off a distinctive odor? Would the grow operation have been obvious to anyone with a nose?" If the answer was "no", that would have helped the defense; a piece of evidence in support of the theory that you can live in a house and not know about marijuana plants in the basement. If the answer was "yes, it would have been obvious", that would have helped the prosecution. So if you give the questions to both the lawyers, and let each one answer or ignore it, that seems fair to me.

Why is it forbidden to have jurors write down questions and submit them to the lawyers? The lawyers don't even need to answer or even acknowledge the questions; they could just use them to inform their strategy.

And if the answer is "because the person who asked the question would put too much emphasis on the answer", then my reply is: Absent the questions, jurors put too much emphasis on what they think they remember about stuff they read about in the past before they were isolated on jury duty. "I think I read once that marijuana plants don't have much of a smell." Okay, nobody else remembers anything at all, we'll all go with that.

I guess under the modern theory, the correct result occurred. The prosecuting attorney didn't think of asking any witnesses "Was there any obvious evidence of the grow operation?" and since he didn't think of that, he loses.

It's hard to get too upset over this, because a marijuana grow operation is not a big deal, and I don't mind too much that one of the guys got away scot free. But what about an actually important case, like a murder trial?

Jurors should be able to submit questions to both lawyers, and the lawyers should not be obliged to explicitly answer them or even acknowlege them.

Re:Alternative approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35647688)

"Would the grow operation have been obvious to anyone with a nose?"

I have a nose, but almost no sense of smell. Lots of folks are anosmic due to infection, a side effect of many medications, nasal polyps, head trauma, etc, etc. I hope you were going to inquire as to whether the defendant had a good olfaction sense, and not just if marijuana had an odor.

Re:Alternative approach (1)

westlake (615356) | about 3 years ago | (#35647356)

By having a judge and attorneys filter the arguments and evidence to which a jury is exposed, they're substituting their own wisdom for that of jurors. Especially when judges refuse to allow defense lawyers to suggest juries consider jury-nullification of a law to be a legitimate exercise of their powers.

The geek's faith in "jury nullification" is wonderous to behold - because, that, in all probability, it is what will put a noose around his neck.

Re:Alternative approach (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 3 years ago | (#35647788)

What would be the point of asking such a question? Obviously, if the defendant was seen walking around with a gun, and the evidence was legal and reliable, the prosecution would have mentioned it. So that leaves a few choices: the defendant was not seen with a gun - you can assume that is the case because the prosecution didn't say otherwise. Or someone claimed they saw the defendant with a gun, and told the news that, but turned out to be a not credible witness, so the prosecution didn't use them. Or the police browbeat the witness until they said they saw a gun, and the judge disallowed the testimony.

So what do you hope to gain by asking such a question? Do you want to trample the defendants rights by allowing in testimony that should have been excluded? Do you want to bring in hearsay to the trial, again trampling the defendants rights?

It seems to me that what you really want to accomplish is mob justice, with no pretense of rights.

Re:Alternative approach (1)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 3 years ago | (#35647864)

I guess there are two parts of my concerns about hiding evidence from a jury.

If it's because the judge considers evidence prejudicial, it's because he thinks jurors can't handle complexities about the relevance of evidence on a conclusion, which is putting his judgment on a pedestal about the judgment of the jurors.

If it's because the evidence was illegally obtained: I don't think it should be excluded, because regardless of its origin, the jury's job is still to provide an actually correct judgment about what happened (in matters of fact). I don't think the proper sanction for illegally obtained evidence is for it to be hidden from the jury. I think the proper sanction is to charge those who obtained it with criminal offenses for doing so.

Re:Alternative approach (2)

bws111 (1216812) | about 3 years ago | (#35647954)

OK, so the police violate your rights and search your house illegally. They find evidence that you committed a crime (maybe even one they hadn't previously known about). This gets used at your trial, and you are convicted and sitting in jail. Meanwhile, the cop who violated your rights is on trial, and his jury uses your wonderful jury nullification idea and decides that since you were such a scumbag your rights didn't count anyway, and they let him off.

There is no other way to look at your ideas than you are willingly giving up your rights and getting nothing at all in return (except for not having that 'elitist judge' protect them). No thanks.

Re:Alternative approach (5, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | about 3 years ago | (#35646516)

So, you think it's okay for jurors to, on their own, access information pertinent to the case, without giving the defense or prosecution an opportunity to examine that information and discuss it in court? You think people should be convicted based on secret information their attorneys didn't even know about? Nice...

Re:Alternative approach (0)

geminidomino (614729) | about 3 years ago | (#35646552)

You think people should be convicted based on secret information their attorneys didn't even know about?

Compared to them being convicted based only on the information that the judge, who may have a vested interest in the outcome, decides they should hear?

Sounds like a push to me.

Re:Alternative approach (5, Insightful)

pclminion (145572) | about 3 years ago | (#35646642)

Whether the judge controls the information is beside the point. The point is, the defense needs the opportunity to address the information in court. I don't understand how replacing one potential problem with a much, much bigger problem helps anything.

Re:Alternative approach (1)

geminidomino (614729) | about 3 years ago | (#35646868)

Whether the judge controls the information is beside the point

Actually, who controls the information is precisely the point, especially in civil cases (which also take place in court houses).

Re:Alternative approach (1)

pclminion (145572) | about 3 years ago | (#35646998)

Actually, who controls the information is precisely the point, especially in civil cases (which also take place in court houses).

While your point may be important, it is not the topic. The topic is the problem of jurors inappropriately tapping into information sources where the court is not aware of it. If you're going to conduct justice that way, why not do away with the judge, lawyers, and courtroom all together? We get just get a band of people together and they can talk amongst themselves. We could call such an assemblage of persons a "posse" or maybe a "lynch mob."

Re:Alternative approach (1)

WNight (23683) | about 3 years ago | (#35647334)

Oh grow up. You're inventing ridiculous extremes to justify not considering how things could, and must, change.

When keeping someone from the news meant stopping them from buying newspapers it might have been practical. Now that almost every electronic device is networkable it's less practical. Moreso, when everything is online it's less reasonable to sequester a jury member - at least for the pittance they receive.

We need to realize that it's not practical to keep people in the dark and start designing trials to counter this. As someone said, let the jurors ask questions and give the defense time to address this. Yes, it does totally change trials, but we need to realize it's a losing battle otherwise, to try to embargo ever-smaller and more-essential technology, from jurors.

Also, if someone would have watched FOX and been influenced by the scare tactics they peddle they'd have already watched FOX and this needs to be addressed You can't just pretend that because they're not being preached to right now that they're free from it. So once again, design a new form of trial where jurors' biases and ignorance (which are, of course, society's biases and ignorance) get addressed. If not we're just ensuring that the FOX watchers won't be happy with the results because they'll seem wrong.

Re:Alternative approach (3, Insightful)

PCM2 (4486) | about 3 years ago | (#35647498)

We need to realize that it's not practical to keep people in the dark and start designing trials to counter this.

Either that, or we need to keep doing what we do now: Expect jurors to act like adults, respect the rule of law, and obey the instructions of the judge. And if they don't, they're dismissed, fined, and the defendant is potentially entitled to a new trial because his defense was poisoned by a misbehaving juror.

So once again, design a new form of trial where jurors' biases and ignorance (which are, of course, society's biases and ignorance) get addressed.

In all the times I've been called as a juror (and it happens every year without fail), I've found the current legal system is actually pretty good at this. Do you have experience otherwise?

Re:Alternative approach (1)

Mr. Slippery (47854) | about 3 years ago | (#35647998)

I've found the current legal system is actually pretty good at this. Do you have experience otherwise?

The U.S. has the highest incarceration rate in the world, a massive problem with violent crime, is one of only a handful of developed nations that executes its own citizens, and has a racist prison-industrial complex. Are you seriously suggesting that our legal system is "pretty good"?

Re:Alternative approach (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35646562)

So are you saying they should throw out all rules for evidence such as speculation, hearsay, conjecture, etc.?

Jurors are charged with making a ruling based on the evidence presented not the "evidence" they can Google.

Re:Alternative approach (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35647260)

What really should happen is that both sides present only recorded evidence and arguments, to the judge in chambers. When the judge orders something stricken from the record, the jurors never see it in the first place, and cannot be swayed. Only after the judge gets a final edit pass do the jurors (and spectators) sit in court.

Not clear (2)

Locke2005 (849178) | about 3 years ago | (#35646448)

If your intention is to deliberately keep jurors ignorant, then yes, jurors should be banned from using smart phones while sequestered. If your intention is to keep spectators from leaking information about the trial, that ship sailed a long time ago... the technology to undetectably get pictures and audio recordings of testimony out of the courtroom has been around for a while.

Re:Not clear (1)

gclef (96311) | about 3 years ago | (#35646984)

Another poster brought up the biggest point: both sides need the ability to rebut testimony or evidence. If the news site a juror is reading is publishing stuff about a trial that (for whatever reason) isn't being brought up in court, that's unfair to one side. It's not about keeping the jurors ignorant as much as making sure that both sides get a chance to have their shot at any testimony or facts presented in the court.

Think about all the stuff that's reported wrongly in the news...now imagine someone poor slob getting jailed because a juror believed the news instead of what was in court. That's not where the justice system should be.

I have been following this issue for years. (3, Insightful)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | about 3 years ago | (#35646454)

I have a friend who practiced in the U.S. District Court in Mass. Early on he had a Windows Mobile phone, which of course he kept his schedule. When the Court was banning cell phones, he would have to get permission from the court so that he could check his schedule on his phone, as did opposing counsel.

In Los Angeles, they would ban cell phones with cameras for a while, for non-attorneys. This was stopped between 2008 and 2010. I suspect that since most people have their schedules on their phones, it would make it very hard to schedule any proceedings if phones were banned.

As far as jurors, there must be some restriction on information access/communications during the period that they are on a jury (as opposed to being in the pool). Not only so that they are untainted, but also so they are undistracted.

Camera Phones don't take pictures, people take pictures.

Re:I have been following this issue for years. (1)

IHC Navistar (967161) | about 3 years ago | (#35647382)

"I suspect that since most people have their schedules on their phones, it would make it very hard to schedule any proceedings if phones were banned."

With all the money that attorneys make, I'm sure they can afford a pen-and-paper DayRunner.

Re:I have been following this issue for years. (1)

www.sorehands.com (142825) | about 3 years ago | (#35647754)

Having a schedule on a computer and phone is so much better.

It lets others check your schedule, or schedule with you. With scheduling software, you can select the people to invite and then have the computer identify when everyone is available. Not make the appointment and then spend 4 days figuring out the best time.

Two sorts of jurors we don't want (4, Insightful)

cdrguru (88047) | about 3 years ago | (#35646460)

  1. The ones that just don't care. It is beyond their ability to be interested and sometimes need to be woken up during the trial. Whatever way the wind is blowing that will be their decision - going with the flow, majority rules and must be right.
  2. The sort that is sure there is something "wrong" in the trial and want to figure it out for themselves. For example, during a medical malpractice proceeding they are sure the anesthesiologist must be mistaken from their vast experience due to Aunt Sally having a terrible time with her last operation. So they want to spend a lot of time with WebMD and various blogs about people with anesthesia problems hoping to be able to prove their point.

Of course, what we get in the US is a predominance of both of these sorts of jurors. They watch a lot of TV and are sure they have stumbled into something interesting. Or they are there because there isn't anything else interesting to do at the rest home. Worse, they didn't want to serve, couldn't think of a way out of it and now are there and are very, very hostile about it - he must be guilty or he wouldn't have been arrested, can we go now?

The smartphone is of use to both these sorts of people and in neither case is it useful or helpful but is actually very, very damaging to the system. And if you happen to be the guy on trial with 10 of these sorts of jurors you are going to be very angry at the guilty verdict.

Re:Two sorts of jurors we don't want (1)

syousef (465911) | about 3 years ago | (#35646852)

Now I understand the problem with jurors going out on their own and seeking evidence - I don't want an unqualified juror looking up hokem on a pseudo-science site and making their mind up on specialized evidence any more than the next guy. But one problem with the legal system is that the jurors are can't ask questions and have them answered. They can only go on the evidence presented which is sometimes (maddeningly to them) incomplete. There should be a structured and guided way to do this rather than just relying on what a prosecutor serving the interests of the state and a defendant serving the interests of the accused disclose. Not every question would have to be answered - sometimes the answer could be "that information isn't admissible" but the fact that there's no way for a juror to satisfy themselves on an issue they feel is important is what has them running to uncle Google. You're telling them they have to decide on a man's freedom or life and then putting up intolerable roadblocks.

Re:Two sorts of jurors we don't want (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35647476)

Oh, don't forget the third type! The type who hates being forced on the jury and is actively hostile towards the process. And every additional stupid rule, like forbidding my smartphone, is just ticking me off that much more.

One example of Judicial Tech-stupidity and (2)

meerling (1487879) | about 3 years ago | (#35646550)

There is a case where a judge declared a mistrial because one of the lawyers used a big $2 word that few average people would understand. They wouldn't define/explain the word to the jury, nor even let them look in a dictionary, so one of them used his phone to check an online dictionary. That's the whole reason the judge declared a mistrial.
I think that judge in particular needs to get whacked with a clue-by-four.

In my opinion there does need to be some standard rules regarding the use of these devices, but completely banning them is not a good choice. Even so, a single stupid or technophobic judge will screw over anything no matter what.

Re:One example of Judicial Tech-stupidity and (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35647068)

"A case" eh? No citations at all? Well, I guess we'll all just take your word for it then.

Lawyers Only? (3, Informative)

GrifterCC (673360) | about 3 years ago | (#35646570)

I practice before the federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia at Alexandria, and they do not allow anyone, including lawyers, to bring their smartphones in. It's routine to have to look at your calendar on the fly when the judge wants to schedule something, so you have to have it with you. The EDVA policy is the main reason I still maintain a paper calendar parallel to my computer calendar.

I understand and buy into the rationale behind not letting jurors bring them in, but the state courts in the area almost universally allow lawyers to bring their smartphones in, and it's such a bonus.

Re:Lawyers Only? (3, Interesting)

demonlapin (527802) | about 3 years ago | (#35647328)

As others have pointed out in the past, though I can't remember where, the entire jury experience is miserable because jurors are the only part of the system that has no control or way to influence future behavior - judges have immense control over lawyers appearing before them, of course, but the lawyers also have some feedback into the system, while no jury can "punish" a judge or lawyer for misleading them.

Here's an idea. (2)

dragonhunter21 (1815102) | about 3 years ago | (#35646584)

Tell you what- when I'm allowed to bring my smartphone in for my SAT, then we'll talk about letting the jury have them.

Re:Here's an idea. (2)

Ritchie70 (860516) | about 3 years ago | (#35646894)

In the case of the SAT, the point is to find out what you know and how you think.

In the point of the jury, the point (in theory at least) is to arrive at a fair and correct verdict as to the matter before the court.

At that point it becomes less clear to me whether the jury should have access to unfettered information or not.

Re:Here's an idea. (5, Interesting)

bws111 (1216812) | about 3 years ago | (#35647162)

How can it be less clear? The whole point of a trial is that the jury does NOT have unfettered access to information.

First and most obvious are the rules of evidence - if you are on trial, do you want the jury to have access to the results of an illegal search that just happened to be 'leaked'? Do you want the jury to search the papers and find that you have been charged with the same type of offense before?

Next is the constitutional right to confront your accuser. A juror looking up information on his own is not giving the defense a chance to rebut the information. Also, the defense (or even the prosecution) would not have prior knowledge of what things a juror was looking up, so they would not have time to prepare a proper rebuttal (get expert witnesses, etc).

Giving jurors access to information outside the courtroom is just an awful idea.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about 3 years ago | (#35647338)

Active jurors hearing a current trial, yes. But banning them from jurors is very different from banning them from a courthouse, or from the pool of potential jurors.

Re:Here's an idea. (1)

bws111 (1216812) | about 3 years ago | (#35647574)

Oh, I agree. But the post I was responding to didn't say 'potential jurors' or 'people in the courthouse', he said jury, which to my mind means people that are actively serving on a trial.

Let them eat cake! (2)

kuzb (724081) | about 3 years ago | (#35646596)

Why not allow them to have their mobile devices, but jam cell frequencies so they can't be 'contaminated' ?

Why bother (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35646664)

I can turn 100 million greens into cheap bio-diesel through thermal de-polymerization. We rid the world of Luddites and we get to drive cool cars!.

Cameras (2)

mqhiller (688190) | about 3 years ago | (#35646688)

Last time I was on Jury duty, I was told no cell phones. Apparently gangs were using the cameras to photo and intimidate witnesses.

Nooooooooo! (1)

billsayswow (1681722) | about 3 years ago | (#35646776)

Don't ban them! I have my murder trial coming up, and I already have it set up for the App Store to offer Angry Birds for free on the day the prosecution makes their case.

Re:Nooooooooo! (2)

demonlapin (527802) | about 3 years ago | (#35647442)

Let's just hope you didn't make any of the 48 Hours Mystery mistakes, like Googling "how to kill my wife without getting caught" or "how to knock someone in the head" (yes, really) or "how to get away with murder" or even "how to get rid of a body". While signed in to your Google account. And then leaving it in your computer's history.

How it really works: (2)

germansausage (682057) | about 3 years ago | (#35647054)

I don't want to spoil the usual misinformed ranting with a bunch of facts, but I just finished jury duty, and this is how it works: The sherrif collects everybody's cell phones and locks them up in a little foam lined briefcase at the start of court every day. You get them back for lunch break and when you leave for the day. Once we were sequestered there were no phones, period, till we reached a verdict.

Cellphone blockers are cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35647154)

http://s.dealextreme.com/search/cellphone+blocker

Just block the bastards.

My last time on jury duty (2)

JazzXP (770338) | about 3 years ago | (#35647206)

I think the system we have here in Australia works well (no idea how it works in the US). Phones allowed in the courthouse, but not in the courtroom. When I was on a jury a couple of years ago, we had to put our phones in a box before going on to the jury. Once we left the courtroom, we could pick up our phones and use them like normal. Not even from the smartphone side, but a jury shouldn't have any distractions like that while listening to a trial.

Courts should not be allowed (1)

oldmac31310 (1845668) | about 3 years ago | (#35647236)

Considering the FACT that the legal system is peopled by corrupt (stupid) assholes I would suggest that courts themselves should not be allowed. Ever encountered one of these tools? I rest my case.

Swarovski outlet (0)

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Swarovski Crystal Jewelry are famous for their exquisite workmanship and graceful shape .For satisfing more customers our Swarovski outlet has recently launched onlinewelcome to our Swarovski outlet store.http://www.swarovski-outlet.com
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