Friday, August 24, 2012

Model federal jury instructions seek to deter use of social media at trial

By and among jurors, that is.  From the ABA Journal blog:

New Model Jury Instructions Tell Jurors to Turn in Others Who Flout Social Media Ban

New model jury instructions (PDF) developed by a federal Judicial Conference committee expand a previous ban on social media use and explain in simple terms that jurors are not supposed to use electronic tools or talk about the case, period, except during deliberations.

"In other words, you cannot talk to anyone on the phone, correspond with anyone, or electronically communicate with anyone about this case," state the model instructions recommended by the Committee on Court Administration and Case Management for use at the end of trial. "You can only discuss the case in the jury room with your fellow jurors during deliberations."

The instructions also list, generally and specifically, what is apparently intended to be an all-inclusive list of prohibited methods of communication via social media and other electronic means and impose on jurors a duty to turn in other jurors who violate this ban.

Specifically prohibited are cell phones, Blackberries, iPhones; the Internet, email, blogs and websites; and text messaging, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter and YouTube. In case something is left out of this list, the instructions also prohibit using "other tools of technology" and "any similar technology of social media," regardless of whether the judge specifically mentioned it.

"I expect you will inform me as soon as you become aware of another juror’s violation of these instructions," the judge is supposed to inform jurors, both at the beginning and at the end of trial.

You can continue reading the ABA Journal post here and the press release from the federal courts here.


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