Jury Duty Calls

Referred to as the “Google Mistrial,” a federal judge in Florida declared a mistrial after a juror told that judge that he had been doing research on the Internet on the drug trial in which he was serving. When the judge declared the mistrial, eight other jurors confessed that they had been doing the same thing. Judges have long warned jurors about using outside sources, including the Internet, but BlackBerries and iPhones have proven to be mighty tempting for jurors. Some jurors are using Facebook to announce when verdicts are coming. One juror even looked up evidence that had been excluded by the judge in the case. When asked why he violated the judge’s order, the juror said simply, “Well, I was curious.” Another juror contacted the defendant through Facebook, and another mistrial resulted. A judge in Arkansas is reviewing a request for a reversal of a $12.6 million jury verdict against a company from one of the company’s lawyers based on the court’s discovery that one of the jurors was using. Twitter to send out postings about how the trial was proceeding. An excerpt from the posting follows: “Oh, and nobody buy Stoam. It’s bad mojo and they’ll probably cease to Exist now that their wallet is $12m lighter … So, Jonathan, what did you do today? Oh nothing really, I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else’s money.”

Answer the following questions: (1) What is a jury? (2) What is the purpose of a jury in a court proceeding? (3) What is the problem with jurors using these electronic tools during their cases?

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