The digital generation brought up Googling, Wikipediaing, and Twittering their way through their lives is starting to have problems when it turns out they don’t see why they can’t do the same thing when they’re in a courtroom, according to the New York Times.
In a recent case, it was found that 9 out of 12 jurors were doing research about the case on the Internet, which forced the judge to declare a mistrial after eight weeks of testimony.
Similarly, a building products company has asked an Arkansas court to overturn a $12.6 million judgment, claiming that a juror used Twitter to send updates during the civil trial.
The problem is that people can use their usual Internet tools from their cell phones and Blackberrys, and it can be difficult to take those devices away from jurors -- plus, unless they're sequestered, they can look things up when they get home. But judges are apparently having trouble explaining to jurors why they shouldn’t do that – partly because the people, perhaps overly influenced by Perry Mason and CSI: Miami, are trying to help.
“Jurors are not supposed to seek information outside of the courtroom,” said the New York Times’ John Schwarz in the story. “They are required to reach a verdict based on only the facts the judge has decided are admissible, and they are not supposed to see evidence that has been excluded as prejudicial.”
“There's no need to change any rules,” said one person commenting on the story at the New York Times site. “These people are just idiots. Everyone knows you're forbidden to research a trial you're sitting on the jury of. This is no different from a juror reading an editorial in a newspaper.”