The technological age is wreaking havoc the judicial system. Jurors’ Internet research, blog comments and tweets have led to dozens of mistrials, appeals and overturned verdicts. Reuters Legal checked Westlaw for challenges related to jurors’ Internet conduct and found 90 verdicts called into question since 1999. More than half the cases are from the last two years. In 28 of the cases, 21 of them since January 2009, judges granted new trials or overturned verdicts.
Reuters Legal wire service also checked tweets with the words “jury duty” in a three-week period ending in December. “Tweets from people describing themselves as prospective or sitting jurors popped up at the astounding rate of one nearly every three minutes,” the story says. Many of the tweets simply expressed boredom. But many included snap decisions on guilt or innocence. “Jury duty is a blow. I’ve already made up my mind. He’s guilty. LOL,” one tweet read. One of the more notorious acts of juror misconduct was demonstrated by comedian Steve Martin, tweeting throughout a murder trial on which he served as a juror.
Another example highlighted by Reuters was from a prospective juror read “Guilty! He’s guilty! I can tell!” He was picked for the jury and the defendant was convicted. Reuters Legal turned the tweet over to the court, along with the identity of the juror, but was told by a court spokesperson that the tweet wasn’t a problem because it was sent before the person made it on the jury.