The “Googling Juror”

In an on-line article titled, “Rely on Instructions to Curb the Socially Networked Juror” (3/19/12), Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm writes that “the ‘Googling Juror’ has emerged as a massive concern in the courts with plenty of stories on the process being thrown into mistrial by panelists who had to look up a fact, couldn’t take their finger off the Tweet button, and felt the need to “friend” parties, attorneys, and other jurors.” Dr. Broda-Bahm references a new article in the Duke Law & Technology Review (St. Eve & Zuckerman, 2012) titled, "Ensuring an Impartial Jury in the Age of Social Media" that discusses a survey of 140 former jurors. He quotes a juror as saying that “nothing” could prevent her from using social media during the trial. The good news is that of a sample of 140 jurors surveyed, only 6 reported a temptation to use social media during their trial, and none of those 6 succumbed to the temptation.

In her article, the Hon. Amy J. St. Eve (Northern District of Illinois) and her law clerk, Michael  A. Zuckerman, discuss the juror anecdotes that leave trial lawyers sleepless: the Arkansas death sentence set aside by a tweeting juror, the British juror who conducted a Facebook poll on how she should vote in deliberations, and the Florida juror who may face jail time for “friending” a defendant. Although all these anecdotal examples are important cautionary tales, Dr. Broda-Bahm contends that they do not define the common experience of most jurors.

As a possible solution to social networking abuses, he recommends asking the court for specific social media instructions that take the additional step of explaining why the jurors are being asked to refrain from social networking during trial. However, will a social media instruction be sufficient to curb social networking behavior among jurors?