Social media and online research may be the two of the newest headaches that lawyers and the courts have to face with jury trials. Lawyers spend many hours before a jury is ever selected determining what evidence may be presented and how to share the information with the jury so they can make the most unbiased decision possible. Smartphones are the wildcard in this whole scenario. Information a juror can research or influences a juror receives through social media can turn a jury from an impartial jury of your peers to a biased jury unwilling to make their decision based solely on the facts presented.
The judges make a point to warn jurors that they are not allowed to share any information related to the case on social media or to research the case online but there have been instances where jurors have friended each other and tried to friend witnesses, defendants, and even attorneys. There have also been instances where it was found out that jurors used google and/or wikipedia to research terms and laws. All of these misuses of smartphones by the jurors hampers the defendant’s Constitutional rights.
Watch an interview on Fox 10 about these issues relating to the Baby Gabriel case here in Arizona