EvidenceProf Blog

Editor: Colin Miller
Univ. of South Carolina School of Law

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Avoiding The Google Mistrial: Story Reveals Measures Oklahoma Judge Has Taken In Light Of New Technologies

For years, judges instructed jurors not to discuss cases with non-jurors and to avoid any news coverage. Now, with the advant of new technologies and the so-called Google mistrial, some judges are supplementing those instructions.

According to a story out of Tulsa from Tuesday, a judge instructed potential jurors, including a reporter, "to avoid news coverage, but also to not Google the case online."  The judge ostensibly gave the instruction based upon the knowledge that, whereas jurors in years past could avoid learning anything about parties by simply staying away from traditional media, information such as the party's financial status and his criminal past are now simply a few mouse clicks away. According to Tulsa District Judge Clancy Smith, "I tell all the jurors you have to decide the case on what you hear in the courtroom because so much of that would be inadmissible and it's not proven and not true sometimes."

Judge Smith went on to note that "The fear is you will convict him because of his past, not because of what happened here and so, these are the main reasons you can't let them look at something not screened by a judge." Based upon these concerns, Judge Smith also precludes anyone from texting while in her courtroom, and she confiscates jurors' cell phones when they go deliberate, so they don't search the Internet for additional information. In other words, she's my type of judge because she is making efforts to prevent the very types of problems that are plaguing jury trials around the country.



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