Shielding jurors from the outside influences so that they can maintain their independence and impartiality has always been a challenge. But the rise of electronic media and social networking has added new hurdles. Jurors have been unable to resist the temptation to Google, tweet and blog about the cases they that are charged with adjudicating.
In an effort to bring order back to the court, the federal Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Management recently issued a set of model jury instructions that explicitly advise jurors not to “not consult dictionaries or reference materials, search the internet, websites, blogs, or use any other electronic tools to obtain information about this case or to help you decide the case.”
In other words, jurors “may not communicate with anyone about the case on your cell phone, through e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, and YouTube.” For the full jury instructions, click here or here.
Will the jury instructions actually stop jurors from violating the rules against communicating about and researching cases? Probably not. But clear instructions ought to make it easier to discipline jurors for their transgressions.