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How social media may be destroying the idea of an impartial jury

We are told that we have the right to a fair trial, but what makes a trial fair? In the case of jury trials, one very important aspect is to have jurors who are impartial. But finding such jurors is becoming increasingly difficult in a world of social media and 24-hour news.

It is scary to think that during a criminal trial that could decide your fate for years or even decades, one or more jurors might be posting about the case on Facebook or Twitter. In 2010, Reuters Legal reported that within the previous decade some 90 verdicts had been challenged nationwide because of alleged juror misconduct related to internet use. And these were just the cases where juror misconduct was noticed and called out.

It is now common practice for jurors to be warned explicitly and repeatedly that they are not allowed to use the internet to post about the trial or their views on it. This is in addition to bans on conducting independent research or asking for advice from outside parties on how to vote in the jury room.

Yet jurors routinely ignore warnings about internet use, and judges are getting fed up. Recently, a Florida judge overseeing a civil trial charged a 24-year-old juror with contempt of court. The juror could now face up to six months in jail for his shenanigans.

The man had been posting on Facebook about the trial in clear violation of the judge’s order. An attorney who discovered the Facebook postings explained that “In addition to expressing general disdain about jury service, he made very specific comments about the case itself. The comments made it clear that he couldn’t be and never was fair and impartial.”

If you are ever selected for jury duty, please remember that the work you do is incredibly important to those involved as either defendants or plaintiffs. Moreover, jury duty is also crucial to our criminal and civil justice systems.

If you are currently facing criminal charges, you need to know that juror misconduct is only one of the many problems that could result in an unfair trial. For this and other reasons, you need the help and strong advocacy of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Source: Austin American-Statesman, "Florida juror removed in handcuffs, faces contempt charge over Facebook posting," Jane Musgrave, June 2, 2014

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Meet Attorney Guillory

Attorney Joshua S. Guillory was born in Alexandria, Louisiana. Upon graduating high school from Alexandria Senior High, he enrolled in classes at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette where he earned his Bachelor of Science degree. Josh was a member of Mu Kappa Tau, a national honor society for marketing majors, while attending... Read More

Joshua S. Guillory

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