I’m on a Jury: Why Can’t I Google, Tweet, Facebook, Email or Blog About It?
New technology and social media can help us stay in touch with friends, families and online acquaintances, but using social media doesn’t always follow the rules for jurors.
When you are on a jury – whether a grand juror or a trial juror – two principles guide your work:
- First, you must reach a decision based only on the evidence presented to you in court. This is important because one element of a fair trial is that a case is decided based only on evidence that is reviewed by the parties and the court, and that is relevant to the case and to the issues to be decided.
- Second, you must make the decision with your fellow jurors, in private and without any outside influence. You and your colleagues on the jury have met the qualifications to be a juror and are the only people selected to decide the case. If you are a grand juror, there is a third principle – you must observe grand jury secrecy and keep secret everything that happens when the grand jury meets.
These principles and the juror’s job did not change with the arrival of new technology and social media. Cell phones, lap tops, tablets and other technology have made it easier for us to stay in touch, but jurors and potential jurors have to use technology in a way that does not conflict with their responsibilities as jurors.
The same caution applies to jurors’ and potential jurors’ use of social media. Many jurors are accustomed to using Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter and other sites to communicate their views, experiences, observations and opinions. Jurors and potential jurors must only use social media in a way that is consistent with their responsibilities as jurors.
Some guidelines for jurors:
Following these guidelines throughout your jury service will help you meet your job as a juror. They apply to any and all methods of communication or research – conversations, writings, electronic devices and social media.
- If you are a prospective juror, do not attempt to learn what cases might be called for trial while you are on jury service. Do not conduct any research that might reveal any information about any case that might be pending before the court, or about any of the parties that might be involved in any case. And do not make any attempt to learn what case might be called for trial while you are on jury service.
- If you have been selected for a jury, do not try to learn more about the case or a witness, communicate about the case or a witness, or communicate with a witness or party.
- Do not discuss the case, communicate about the case, or express an opinion about the case, with anyone. This includes your family and your fellow jurors.
- Do not blog or post about the case or your experience while serving.
- Do not independently visit a location mentioned in the case.
- Do not independently research a case, a party, a witness, or anything that comes up in a case.
The guidelines apply to any and all methods of communication or research:
- The guidelines given above apply to any and all methods of communication or research – reading or writing, electronic devices and social media.
- You cannot write about grand jury deliberations in a letter or on a blog. You cannot drive to a site mentioned in testimony or check it out on Google Earth. You cannot text a fellow juror about the day’s testimony or talk to your spouse about it.
No list of guidelines will cover every situation. If you have a question about whether you can – or should – do something, do nothing until you have received direction from the Judge or, if you are on a grand jury, the Prosecutor’s Office.