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Why Jurors Should Not Post to Facebook or Twitter About Trials

September 7, 2010

Last week, a Michigan area woman was removed from a jury after posting to her Facebook account during the trial. 

“Gonna be fun to tell the defendant they’re GUILTY,” she wrote.  The defense attorneys asked that she be removed, and the judge agreed.  He went further, ordering her to pay a $250 fine and write an essay on the 6th Amendment right to trial by jury.

To all potential jurors out there: You should not follow in her footsteps!

First and foremost, the jury system in our country is intended to provide fair hearing of disputes between parties, and ensure the accused are not wrongfully imprisoned.  This juror, by not only deciding the case before hearing the defense’s argument, but also by broadcasting her decision, has undermined the role of the jury.  If you were the defendant, you’d want jurors to be attentive and open-minded.

If you’re more cynical, though, there are other reasons why you shouldn’t post about trials from inside the jury box – legal reasons.

In Michigan, where this incident took place, jurors take an Oath before they sit in the trial:

“Each of you do solemnly swear (or affirm) that, in this action now before the court, you will justly decide the questions submitted to you, that, unless you are discharged by the court from further deliberation, you will render a true verdict, and that you will render your verdict only on the evidence introduced and in accordance with the instructions of the court, so help you God” MCR 2.511(H)(1)

Further, Jurors are not allowed to:

“(a) discuss the case with others… (c) use a computer, cellular phone, or other electronic device with communication capabilities while in attendance at trial or during deliberation… or (d) …to obtain or disclose information about the case when they are not in court…”  MCR 2.511(H)(2)(a-d)

Jurors who violate these rules can be held in contempt.  Contempt” can equal jail time.  A post to Facebook about the trial is definitely using a computer to disclose information about the case, and is therefore prohibited by the court’s rules.  So to all those thinking they can get out of jury duty by posting to their Facebook, be ready to go to jail to do so.

These are just the Michigan rules, though, but other states are catching up.  New York, Florida, and California for sure have similar rules.

This isn’t the first time a juror has been thrown out for social media, and it probably won’t be the last.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. andrew permalink
    September 7, 2010 2:39 pm

    the problem i have with the notion of trial by jury is that it is impossible to be objective. i don’t care if this woman texts her feelings about the trial or not, the fact is that she is biased as are all of the other jurors and the judge. it’s impossible for them not to be. relating that bias is apparently the problem. but had she kept quiet, she would have just brought those predispositions to the deliberation where they would have been perfectly acceptable.

    the real lesson here is don’t commit crimes or wrong anyone ever. that way, you won’t have to worry about jurors being biased.

    someone should just invent a robot to decide cases.

  2. September 9, 2010 1:20 am

    I wrote a clever reply to this, but then I lost it. So here goes nothing:

    1. Just because something is impossible, doesn’t mean we can’t strive for it.
    2. The real lesson isn’t to not commit crimes, its to encourage jurors to take their duty seriously. It’s when you’ve done nothing wrong that you need the jury the most.
    3. Wouldn’t the person programming such a robot impart his or her own biases into the robot?

Trackbacks

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