Social Media: A Growing Problem For Trial Law

by | Jul 25, 2013 | EduSocial Blog, Uncategorized | 0 comments

The rapid growth of online networking and social media has had a considerable effect in the courtroom, especially concerning jurors. A number of jurors have triggered new trials and mistrials as a result of incorrect social media doings during trials. Some jurors have even faced court contempt charges for their activities and postings on Twitter or Facebook during trials.

Request Twitter Names In Voir Dire

Considering the fact that many lawyers have been very slow in adapting the evolving technology, it is right to assume that not many trial attorneys ask the jury venire in voir dire to give their Twitter handles. This is exactly what lawyer Tomasz Stasiuk recommended in the article, Twitter in Court: Find Out Who Is Tweeting. A similar point was made by Leslie Ellis in the Friends or Foe? Social Media, the Jury and You.

Social media offers the chance to learn far more regarding jurors than was achievable in the past. Some might find it disturbing to know how much info can be gathered about people, but it is far more troubling to have an individual on a jury tweeting unconstructive comments about your clients to their friends. Try prying on jurors’ tweets and you might learn something that might change your case’s outcome.

Juror Misconduct on Twitter or Facebook

Juror misconduct online has led to several overturned verdicts and new trials. A Reuters Legal article states that the rate of jurors posting comments or tweeting on social media sites in trials is remarkably high.

If you hear that a juror is posting negative comments but you cannot access them, then one tactic would be requesting the judge to command the juror to release their social media records. This was tried in a certain case in California and emerged into a pending issue in appellate courts when the juror declined to comply with the command.

In another odd case, a male juror in Florida was accused of “friending” a woman defendant whilst serving on her jury. Instead of accepting the friend request, this juror told her attorney concerning it and the guy was dismissed.

Juror misconduct on social media may have dramatic consequences on a trial’s outcome. In Arkansas, the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned a capital murder conviction with death sentence and demanded a new trial because of a juror constantly tweeting comments in trial and even in jury deliberations. The trial court found that the defendant didn’t suffer prejudice but the Arkansas Supreme Court differed and stated that the tweets by the juror constituted public debate of the case. They proceeded to recommend that court systems should consider restricting access to mobile devices by the juror in the course of trials due to the risk of this misconduct and because these gadgets give jurors way into a broad range of info they should not be allowing for in their deliberations.

Juror social media conduct generates opportunities to better understand the beliefs of prospective jurors. It might also give a chance to challenge jury verdicts in post-conviction proceedings or even on appeal in criminal cases when it is possible to prove that jury members were engaged in inappropriate social media behavior. Ensure to study the venire social media habits, question them concerning their social media tweets and posts, and closely watch the Facebook and Twitter posts of those who do well onto the jury.

About the Author

Outside of work hours Mathew is a keen social media blogger. During the day he works for an online Lawyers CPD course provider.


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