Jurors Blow Up Case with Google

If you’ve ever been asked to sit on a jury, you know that one of the first things the presiding judge tells you is that you cannot, under any circumstances, investigate anything relating to the case outside of the courtroom. The problem, of course, is that neither the plaintiff’s nor the defense’s attorneys will know what you’ve gleaned or be able to respond to it accordingly.

Yesterday, I sat in a courtoom where a potential juror told a judge that he couldn’t abide by those exact instructions. He argued that he was too naturally curious and information too readily available online.

Whether he truly suffered from poor impulse control or just really, really didn’t want to sit in on the trial, we’ll never know. After shaming the guy in a five-minute tirade, the judge dismissed him from service.

Now, it seems, that same judge may have dodged a bullet. According to a new New York Times piece, a growing number of jurors is Googling data on their own time, as well as sending out Twitter updates and even blogging about the cases in which they are involved, forcing courtrooms to confront some tough decisions about today’s technological landscape.

In a recent Arkansas case, Stoam, a building products company asked the court to overturn a $12.6 million judgment against it after a juror used Twitter to send updates during the civil trial. Among his “tweets” was one message reading: “oh and nobody buy Stoam. Its bad mojo and they’ll probably cease to Exist, now that their wallet is 12m lighter.”

In a Florida case, a mistrial was called after eight weeks when it was learned that not one but nine of the jurors were conducting their own online research outside the courtroom.

I’ve no idea what such behavior means for our already troubled judicial system, though I sense opportunity here for savvy entrepreneurs willing to work the government on a solution. In the meantime, as the president of the American Society of Trial Consultants tells the paper, at this point, it’s completely impossible to control.

For more on the story, an interesting read, click here.