Monday, September 25, 2006
Jury deliberations are supposed to be secret. And in most cases what happens in the jury room will stay in that room during the deliberations. But with new technologies, it is not surprising to see new issues developing. According to the Wall Street Jrl here and Guardian Unlimited (AP) here, the court in the Scrushy/Siegelman case is now faced with the issue of whether some jurors may have communicated via email.
Scrushy, the former CEO of HealthSouth was found guilty after a second trial by jury (he was found not guilty in a prior trial related to HealthSouth). His defense counsel is seeking a new trial premised on allegations that there were improper communications. (Id.)
With Treos, Blackberries, and other handheld devices that permit access to the Internet, and with so many people now having computers easily accessible, it will not be surprising to see more instances of jurors communicating during deliberations. And I am not talking about emailing to see if someone needs a ride to the courthouse. Judges need to be especially cognizant of the new technologies when instructing a jury. They need to remind jurors that they cannot communicate on the case outside the actual deliberation in the room. They also need to remind jurors that it is not appropriate to google for answers to questions that might be related to the case.