Jurors’ Use Of Social Media At Trial

Hardly a day passes without a report of the impact of social media on the law.  From divorce cases, which lead the charge in the use of Facebook information in court, to criminal law enforcement , workers compensation, and personal injury matters , there is no doubt that the use of evidence obtained from social media is widespread and gaining in general acceptance.


The power of social media to influence a case extends beyond its evidentiary value and the federal judiciary is beginning to take notice.  In late 2011, the Federal Judicial Centerconducted a survey to assess the judiciary’s experience with jurors’ use of social media to communicate about cases during trial and deliberations.  In response to the survey, judges reported jurors attempting to “friend” participants to trials. Jurors were reported to post comments concerning active trials or deliberations on Facebook and Twitter. While the number of incidents involving a juror’s improper us of social media was relatively small, this is most likely a function of the challenges of monitoring jurors’ digital lives outside the courtroom.


Model instructions to jurors, prohibiting the use of social media to research or communicate about a case, were distributed to the federal bench in 2010.  Interestingly, although nearly all (94%) of the responding judges indicated they were aware of the model instruction, almost half (40%) of the judges responded that they do not routinely issue the instruction. 


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