Technology has indeed infiltrated the jury box. Jury service, which necessarily involves hours of quiet observation of the proceedings, evokes, for some, a hunger for expression or quick entertainment. Smartphones, with easy social networking capabilities, facilitates this behavior. Not surprisingly, there has been a myriad of reports about social media activities by sitting jurors.
Some activities did not rise to the level of juror misconduct.
- United States v. Ganias, 2011 WL 4738684, at *3 (D. Conn. Oct. 5, 2011) (postings such as “Guinness for lunch break. Jury duty ok today;” “Your honor, i[sic] object! This is way too boring.... Somebody get me outta here;” and on the day of the verdict, “Guilty :)” did not constitute bias or misconduct).
However, other social media activities could potentially disrupt the integrity of the proceedings or end in a mistrial, and examples abound of instances where jurors have been removed from trials after attempting to friend the defendant on Facebook.
- Sluss v. Commonwealth, 2012 WL 4243650 (Ky. Sept. 25, 2012) (court orders hearing on whether certain jurors in a criminal trial answered voir dire questions truthfully, and whether the jurors' Facebook "friendship" with the victim's mother constituted impermissible juror bias).
In response to such reports, jury instructions have been amended in recent years to inform juries about social media activities. For example, New Jersey state courts recently amended a section of the Model Civil Jury Instruction to include specific prohibitions regarding social media: “You also should not attempt to communicate with others about the case, either personally or through computers, cell phones, text messaging, instant messaging, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Myspace, personal electronic and media devices or other forms of wireless communication.” Similarly, the Judicial Conference Committee also updated the model jury instructions for federal courts to deter jurors from using social media to communicate about the cases on which they serve.