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When twenty year-old Michigan resident Hadley Jons logged onto Facebook a during a break from jury duty and saw the familiar “What’s on your mind?” prompt, she didn’t hesitate to answer: “[A]ctually excited for jury duty tomorrow,” she wrote on August 11. “It’s gonna be fun to tell the defendant they’re GUILTY.”
Jons had written the message on an off day between two days of a felony resisting arrest trial, according to The Macomb Daily, which displays a screen shot of the post here. It came to light only after the defense attorney’s son happened across it.
An infuriated Judge Druzinski replaced Jons with an alternate and the trial continued, ultimately ending in a guilty verdict as the disgraced juror had predicted.
There probably was not an explicit ban on social networking in Judge Druzinski’s jury instructions, but many would argue that disciplining Jons’ behavior is crucial nonetheless. It is easier than ever to uphold the integrity of the Sixth Amendment‘s right to a fair trial by impartial jury; social networking technology provides intimate access into jurors’ tough processes, and the evidentiary record to prove it in court.
But can we keep up with this snowballing problem? In 2008, a juror in England was dismissed for polling friends on Facebook as to how she should vote in the deliberation room. Last year, a blog from the American Society of Trial Consultants listed numerous instances of jurors on Twitter and Google across the United States, and offered advice for attorneys who would inevitably encounter the issue.
It is hard to say who should — or, for that matter, can — take the time to police the Internet for rogue Facebook posts. So should attorneys just treat social networking jurors as an inevitability in today’s society, and simply incorporate that into their voir dire strategy? Or should judges refine jury instructions so as to clear things up for all the Hadley Jonses in the world?
We clearly can’t leave the responsibility up to the jurors themselves. In a world where instantaneous, stream-of-consciousness (over)sharing is a part of daily life, it’s hard to hold back. That “What’s on your mind?” prompt is apparently just too tempting.
– Lauren Gregory
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