I can now check another life event off on the list. It’s finally happened. I was summoned for jury duty and made it through the entire 2 weeks without being called in. While I’m a little bit bummed that I never got to experience a single bit of it, I’m also happy that I didn’t have to stress about being out of the office. I think being put on a case would have been a very interesting experience.
A few days after I received my summons I heard a story on NPR about being a juror in today’s technology filled world. Now, most people are aware that if called as a juror you are not allowed to speak with others about the case. What I never considered was how much information I could potentially research about any case I was assigned to. By using smartphones, laptops and tablets the general public has access to a vast amount of information these days. How easy would it be for someone to visit a crime scene? Just a few clicks on Google Earth and you’re there. How many times has the defendant or anyone else involved been in previous trouble? A quick Google search and voila! There are their prior court records. With just a few clicks a plethora of information is at your fingertips along with a serious fine. It would be so easy to friend your new jury buddies on Facebook, but you can’t do that either. Don’t know a definition of a word used in court? You better not be reaching for your phone to look it up! No Facebook, photos, tweeting, blogging, emailing…the list goes on and on. Your everyday activities online must come to a screeching halt.
A juror in the U.K., Joanne Fraill, was sentenced to eight months in jail for contacting a defendant on Facebook. Apparently, she felt bad for the guy who was acquitted in a high-profile drugs trial and thought he needed a message. The jury was still taking into account charges against other defendants and because of her Facebook message the case collapsed.
These are all things I never would consider to be in violation of my juror agreement. It really makes me wonder how many jurors don’t get caught researching information and how that may impact the case they are working on.
Have you had jury duty within the past few years and experienced any problems with information being leaked or research being done illegally? How did you handle not being able to use your phone or tablet? With all of the changes in technology how long will it be before there are no unbiased jurors?
– Heather Stegenga is a Media Buyer at Cuneo Advertising. Follow her on Twitter @hkstegenga