For years, jurors in the U.S. have been expressly forbidden from talking about the case they are hearing outside the courtroom. But now, people seem to be finding a way around this rule, thanks to the availability of technology.
In unrelated cases, defence lawyers have appealed against the judgments delivered, claiming that jurors had passed comments on these cases, through popular networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, before the judgment had been delivered, thus biasing the minds of people.
In the first case which was tried in Philadelphia, Democratic State Senator Vincent Fumo, had been found guilty on charges of corruption. His lawyers, however have found grounds to appeal against the judgment, because one of the jurors, Eric Wuest, commented on Facebook regarding the case.
One of his comments said, “expect a big announcement on Monday.” The defence called for his ouster from the case, but he defended himself, saying that they were ‘his private musings.’ The judge, ruled in his favour and allowed him to continue on the jury.
In the second case tried in Arkansas, Stoam Holdings, a building materials company, had been asked by the judge to pay $12.6 million to its investors. Russell Wright of Stoam Holdings, has however appealed against the ruling because one of the jurors, Jonathan Powell, sent out messages through Twitter saying, “Nobody buy Stoam. It’s bad mojo and they’ll probably cease to exist, now that their wallet is 12 million lighter.”
This statement has allowed defence lawyers to argue that Powell was ‘predisposed toward giving a verdict that would impress his audience.’
A while ago, lawyers in Kansas, had also been concerned about reporters sending out Tweets from the courtroom, as they could influence jurors. But U.S. District Judge, J.Thomas marten, disallowed the argument, claiming that jurors are always instructed to avoid media coverage.
These cases have opened up a Pandora’s box regarding the use of technology in relation to the jury system prevailing in the U.S. While some feel that the court system is not equipped to deal with the complexities arising from the advent of new technology, others feel that online comments should be treated in the same manner as the spoken word.