Tuesday, July 8, 2014
A meeting of attorneys general of the UK, US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand raises the complicated but extremely pressing question about how to restrict juror access to the internet. In the United States, proof that a juror sitting on a case has researched that case on the internet is presumptively prejudicial and requires reversal if not rebutted. As yet, however, we are not aware of any US juror being charged with a crime, or with contempt of court, for such behavior. In the United Kingdom, juror misconduct of this kind is usually dealt with as a contempt of court. A New Zealand law commission has proposed to make it a crime for a juror to disobey the standard instructions of a judge and research a case on line. Jurors could be charged and punished for researching details of a case they are trying, sharing details of that research with other jurors, and disclosing details of juror deliberations. The latter charge could finally put an end to jurors seeking publicity – or lucrative media contracts – after verdict.
Owen Bowcott, Attorney Generals to Debate Role of Juries in Internet Age, The Guardian (July 6, 2014).
Chambers v. State, 739 S.E.2d 513, 321 Ga. App. 512 (Ga. Ct. App. 2013).
State v. Abdi, 45 A.3d 29, 191 Vt. 162 (2012).
United States v. Bristol-Mártir, 570 F.3d 29 (1st Cir. 2009).