A Juror of Peers via Social Media?

In IIT Chicago-Kent NewsBrief, the article “A jury of one’s peers” may not include the jurors’ Facebook friends considers the issues concerning jurors and the use of social media.

Professor Nancy S. Marder, director of the Justice John Paul Stevens Jury Center at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law comments:

Unfortunately, jurors are accustomed to going online for information, so when they feel they don’t have all the information they want in the courtroom, they may go online for it. This is a serious problem because jurors are supposed to base their decisions only on evidence that is presented and tested through cross-examination in the courtroom.

The influence of social media on selected and potential jurors has become so wide spread, that courts are now having to decide how best to deal with the intrusion of outside influences in the courtroom.

The Illinois Supreme Court Committee revised the cautionary instructions for jurors so it now includes the following information for jurors:

It would be unfair to the parties and a violation of your oath to base your decision on information from outside this courtroom… Disobeying these instructions could cause a mistrial, meaning all of our efforts have been wasted and we would have to start over again with a new trial. If you violate these instructions you could be found in contempt of court.

It’s becoming common now to have both sides of a court case vet out potential jurors’ social media postings.  Negative comments, prior knowledge about facts in the case, or biased opinions that are discussed on such sights as Facebook and Twitter, could be a reason for disqualifying a juror candidate.

Check out Jacksonville’s Action News story about this topic.

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