March 17, 2009
Jurors Tweet, Blog, Research & Send Updates from Courtroom
NY Times today reports a shock in jury behavior. Will private ever be private again?
A juror had reportedly posted something about the case online in real-time but by the time the judge found out about it, they also learned that eight other jurors were doing the same thing. Mistrial. Egads, what were they thinking? Didn't they get the memo?
Says John Schwartz in the piece, "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."
Good thing they don't operate in Silicon Valley. When you're used to a world which is private, the rules, as you once knew them change whether you've modified the law or not. We live in an always-on culture that twitters more often than eating or going to the bathroom.
One juror in another case was sending out updates via Twitter during a civil trial. Just because we have a new means to communicate and its faster and more instant than ever before, do we have to use it everywhere? Would you do the same thing during the middle of a private conversation with a friend when there was supposedly a mutual understanding that the discussion was in fact private?
Or, does the Twitter generation no longer believe that anything should be private? The JustinTV and Lonely Girl phenomena wowed us, and America seems to eat up reality TV. Some people really get into watching some stranger they've never met sleep, go to the bathroom or have sex.
The same applies to reading Twitter and Facebook updates from 1,000+ people you follow to be sure you learn exactly when someone left for the airport, read an article, drank their morning coffee, or dropped off their little girl for daycare.
These are phenomenal new tools people - can we not be smarter about how we use them? I'd love 'smarter' and 'fewer' updates from people I think have something inspiring to say, which includes a handful of friends and colleagues as well as people I don't know but might want to learn more about. I'm ironically now connected to Andre Agassi and hell yes, I'm intrigued but it doesn't mean I'm interested in what every celeb has to say. Same goes for CEOs I've worked with or want to, or VCs in the same category.
Or, is this deemed the wrong question in an always-on world? I went to a social wine and cheese taste in someone's house recently and found my mug online the next day with people I didn't know the names of. Welcome to the new world.
We're so used to it in Silicon Valley that its almost foreign to raise a hand and say hey, can we set some respectful boundaries here? And equally foreign to assume that everyone might like to have a nice 'quiet, offline' conversation with a friend from time-to-time. We're moving into a more public eye whether we want it or not, and now it is moving into courtrooms.
Says Olin Guy Wellborn III, a University of Texas law professor on the topic, "the rules of evidence, developed over hundreds of years of jurisprudence, are there to ensure that the facts that go before a jury have been subjected to scrutiny and challenge from both sides."
The current law is that jurors are not supposed to seek advice or information outside of the courtroom. The idea is to come to an unbias verdict based on the facts inside the courtroom. Yet when people's phones are now iPhones and during a smoking break, they can get data instantly on their mobile browser, is it really possible to control anymore?
Above photo edited from a TeacherDude photo set
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