Judges to warn jurors even more against Internet use during trials
New model instructions to jurors in federal court cases prepared by a committee of judges goes out of its way to warn off individuals from using Internet-connected mobile devices or social media during trial and deliberations.
The new model instructions (.pdf), dated June, aren't radically different from previous versions (.pdf), which also warned against using electronic means of communication and included specific prohibitions against using social media sites such as Facebook (and MySpace).
The new model instructions for before the trial contain an expanded list of social media websites, which now includes "Facebook, Google+, MySpace, LinkedIn, or YouTube…[and] any similar technology of social media."
It's the instructions to jurors where the new model shows the largest expansion, with judges now warning jurors that "in other words, you cannot talk to anyone on the phone, correspond with anyone, or electronically communicate with anyone about this case" after again reciting a litany of prohibited Internet services, including connection to the Internet itself.
Use of mobile devices to connect to the Internet during jury deliberations has increasingly become a problem. A fall 2011 survey (.pdf) of 508 U.S. federal judges found that 30 of them could report instances of detected social media use by jurors.
Three judges said a juror friended, or attempted to friend, one or more participants in the case, and three also report that a juror communicated (or attempted to do so) directly with participants in the case, the survey report says.
One judge even reported discovering a juror using MySpace.
In an incident reported after the survey was published, the Arkansas Supreme Court ordered (.pdf) a new trial in December 2011 for a death row inmate after one juror was caught posting Twitter updates during an April 2010 trial. On the day of sentencing, the juror tweeted, "Choice to be made. Hearts to be broken. We each define the great line."
- download the new model juror instructions (.pdf)