04282017Headline:

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Mike Bryant
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Should Jurors Take a Pledge Against Using Social Media?

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The growth of social media has continued to work its way into trials. Across the country there have been mistrials because jurors have been :

- Blogging about cases

- Trying to friend defendants

- Doing research outside the courtroom

One judge in New York is using a written pledge to insure that jurors understand the importance of not using outside internet work to affect the outcome of the case. As the New York Times has reported:

“I am keenly aware that there are convictions set aside all over the country when we learn later during deliberations a juror looked up the keyword or the key name,” the judge said at the hearing, held this month. “We in the judiciary have been discussing this.”

A few moments later, Judge Scheindlin told the lawyers that she would write a pledge that jurors might be required to sign, promising that they would not turn to the Web to look up Mr. Bout or anything related to his trial until it was over.

Those who signed the pledge, Judge Scheindlin said, would be subject to perjury charges if they broke the agreement.

This is an interesting idea, although it makes you wonder why have them sign a pledge on this issue and not anything else? Should the pledge be more expansive and say that they agree to follow the law as the judge gives it to them?

The key is that the issue isn’t tactical. Outside investigation is wrong and outside the law as given to the jurors. So it should never be a case where the party with the most positive internet doesn’t agree to the prohibition. It would be like agreeing to not pay jurors only in cases where you don’t have enough money. It’s simply something that shouldn’t ever happen.

It is clear that the easier it is for jurors to Google anything, the more these outside influences will play a role. It also will help to have more lawyers and judges who understand what social media involves. Sometimes it sounds like an older judge is reading Chinese as they say words like "Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Myspace"