Monday, December 7, 2009

Jurors and the Internet

By John DiMotto

As I am about to begin another work week - and I DO enjoy my work - I checked my Twitter account to see if there were any new posts on the issue of jurors and the internet. "Jury Talk" provided a link to an article on possible misconduct during the public corruption trial of the Baltimore Mayor, Sheila Dixon. This is an example of why it is imperative that a judge spend extra time during voir dire to impress upon jurors that they cannot in any manner shape or form even go on facebook, My Space or Twitter or its equivalent while serving on a case. The risks are too high for the case and the jurors. In a recent jury, I did just that and it made a big impression on the jurors. Yes, it takes a couple of more minutes during voir dire but it will save hours of Motion after Verdict time and possibly a second trial. My advice to my colleagues - spend the time upfront so you don't spend hours and hours on the back end trying to deal with a mess.


  1. It's bad enough if bored jurors are texting in the first place -- but much worse if they are texting about the case itself. Here are folks who are the envy of many -- members of a jury with a chance to "throw the crook out."
    Shame if the crook gets off thanks to a disobedient jury.
    I can't get into the courthouse with my garden pruners or my cigar cutter -- they'd cause less damage than my cellphone.

  2. Good luck on this. As a trial consultant I have seen this problem developing for years. I have felt that jurors often search the internet during a multiple day trial, but recently I have seen a couple of cases that make me sure of it. Your essential problem is your are fighting the trajectory of history. We see more openess in society, more available information, more willingness to "do-it-yourself." This trajectory has reached a tipping point where, in my opinion, the genie is out of the bottle and can't be put bacvk in. Jurors can ask questions of witnesses in many jurisdictions and they can search the internet from anywhere. They eat together and bond [especially in multiple day trials]. Sometimes they form form in-groups and out-groups acting like they are in high school. They are not obedient to authority. These are the multiple trajectories of society you nust deal with!