These days most judges give very clear instructions to jurors, warning them to avoid social media, stay off the Internet, and avoid conducting any research about the defendant and the case before them. California even passed a law specifically to remind jurors to behave or face the consequences.
I previously posted on the importance of judges providing clear instructions when it comes to jurors, social media and the Internet in general. Here in Pennsylvania, Judge Turgeon of Dauphin County was recently quoted in an article on the same issue.
Unfortunately, no matter how hard the judges try, some people just seem to be either stubborn or stupid. Jurors in Texas and Florida have actually friended the defendants in their cases. The Texas juror got himself in quite a bit of trouble and has to perform community service. He is lucky he didn’t end up in jail. The Florida juror was luckier, he just got thrown off the jury, though I have to wonder what the judge will think of his bragging about it. We have now even seen a death penalty verdict overturned due to a juror tweeting about the case.
It seems like news articles on the misbehavior of jurors are coming out virtually every week now. This inability of some jurors to follow the rules is a serious problem that directly compromises our legal system. Frankly, I am not sure how much clearer the judges can be when they provide instructions to jurors. Maybe the court needs to confiscate jurors cell phones, at least while they are in court. Perhaps that would help.
How do we solve this problem? How to we make jurors understand that they are a critical part of our justice system and they are harming the ability of the system to work if they insist on violating the judge’s orders about use of social media and the Internet?