Smart phones in courtrooms
The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors is wreaking havoc on trials around the country.
The following is not a full transcript; for full story, listen to audio.
When "New York Times" National Legal Correspondent John Schwartz was called for jury duty, he Googled the defendant's name because it sounded familiar. When he realized his error, he also realized he wasn't alone. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors serving on legal cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country. On "The Takeaway," John Schwartz talks about whether trials need to change or whether technology will change trials.
Schwartz began investing the story of Twitter, IM and other unauthorized digital research in the jury pool while he was on jury duty himself: "I was in the jury pool in Newark, and the judge introduced the defendant in a case to us, and then sent us out to lunch while he worked through the list of people who said they absolutely couldn't serve. And I was in the lunchroom, and just without thinking, I looked up the guy's name because it was very familiar to me -- I knew who he was, I just couldn't quite retrieve it -- it's instinctual."
Schwartz describes one of the cases he discovered: "Last week, a complex drug trial -- Internet pharmacy sales in Florida -- was dismissed for juror misconduct. The judge found that at least eight, maybe nine, of the jurors had been doing their own research online. One after another, they called up the jurors and said, 'now what did you do, what did you look at?'
They found that jurors were looking at everything from news stories on the defendant to background on the lawyers online. The case had to be dismissed, according to Schwartz because, "The one rule is, that the facts the jury deals with, are the facts that are determined for them by the judge, through the interplay of the attorneys on either side -- that's how you ensure fairness."
Other juror activities include Twittering updates about a trail, texting, and Googling trail participants.
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