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Jurors Gaining Greater Access to Information Using Cell Phones

In a front-page story, the New York Times reports, “The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges.” Under “the legal system’s complex rules of evidence,” jurors “are required to reach a verdict based on only the facts the judge has decided are admissible.” But, they can now “seek information outside of the courtroom” using “their cell phones,” and “tell their friends what is happening in the jury room.” And, although “judges have long amended their habitual warning about seeking outside information during trials to include Internet searches,” the “risk has grown more immediate — and instinctual.” Douglas L. Keene, president of the American Society of Trial Consultants, notes that “it’s really impossible to control it.” And, because “the court cannot even give a full explanation to jurors about research” by telling “them what not to look for,” the “instructions are usually delivered as blanket admonitions.” “Still, “some courts are beginning to restrict the use of cell phones by jurors within the courthouse,” Keene adds.

Trial lawyers express concern over jurors’ online posts. The AP reports that “Anne W. Reed, a Milwaukee trial lawyer and jury consultant who writes a blog that follows juries and social networking sites” said, “Dozens of people a day are sending tweets or Facebook updates from courthouses all over America.” She said that “most posts are innocuous” however “a few cases have raised eyebrows — and questions about whether judges need to clarify jury instructions about online communications.” Reed “predicts that more judges will limit jurors’ access to cell phones — which they can use to post messages or otherwise access the Internet — in the courtroom or jury room.”

From the American Association for Justice news release.

Bob Kraft

I am a Dallas, Texas lawyer who has had the privilege of helping thousands of clients since 1971 in the areas of Personal Injury law and Social Security Disability.

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The title of this blog reflects my attitude toward those government agencies and insurance companies that routinely mistreat injured or disabled people. As a Dallas, Texas lawyer, I've spent more than 45 years trying to help those poor folk, and I have been frustrated daily by the actions of the people on the other side of their claims. (Sorry if I offended you...)

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