Social media has become so pervasive in our culture that it has even begun to disrupt our judicial system. As an attorney, you should be aware of the ways that jury misconduct could affect your client’s right to a fair trial.
The Wall Street Journal reports that an Arkansas murder conviction was recently thrown out simply because one juror was tweeting throughout the trial. Though judges typically do not allow the use of smartphones in the courtroom, jurors still have access to a wide variety of social media outside the jury box, and this has been causing headaches for attorneys across the country.
Convictions and appeals are increasingly being challenged by attorneys who claim that jurors are improperly communicating with each other outside the courtroom on Facebook, and even sending Facebook friend requests to defendants and plaintiffs.
Courts are struggling with ways to prevent jurors from using social media improperly during trials, but the fact remains that this type of behavior is very hard to detect without compromising juror privacy. Some attorneys have begun to request that jurors turn over their Twitter handles or even allow access to their Facebook accounts during the course of a trial so that any inappropriate communications can be detected, but this again opens a new can of worms when it comes to privacy concerns.