Kitsap Crime and Justice

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Jurors! Focus on the Courtroom!

November 22nd, 2011 by josh farley

A new marketing campaign is underway in our courts. But you won’t likely see it unless you A) read this blog or B) get called for jury duty.

The campaign comes in response to our nation’s embrace of social media in all facets of life. The courts, always lethargic in keeping up with the times, have only begun to channel juror social media behavior so as to preserve the integrity and impartiality of the jury.

Here’s the latest by way of our own courts in Washington: a poster.

In short, it’s message: Focus on the courtroom! (As you can see.)

Here’s the press release from Washington Courts:

Recent headlines point to a new concern for courts: “Judge to Juror: Stop tweeting about the murder trial”; “Jurors ‘friending’ each other on Facebook” and “Googling juror prompts court to overturn jury verdict”.

In the age of social media, with smart phones at our fingertips every day, sharing a ‘status update’ on the experience of serving as a juror may be the instinctive response.

Starting this month, jurors in Washington courtrooms will see a new poster designed to remind jurors of their critical role in assuring a fair trial — and the importance of refraining from researching a case online or commenting on social media sites while the trial is ongoing.
“We recognize that, in their normal 21st century lives, jurors may routinely post information about all of their activities on websites and are probably accustomed to using the internet to get quick answers to any question that might arise,” said King County Superior Court Judge William Downing Co-Chair of the Washington State Pattern Jury Instructions Committee.
“Because these are such natural impulses in our electronic age, jurors will benefit from a gentle reminder that their duty to provide a fair trial requires them to postpone these activities until after their trial is finished.”
This is a critical point. The U.S. Constitution requires impartial juries, meaning that jurors must be unbiased, must refrain from prematurely forming or discussing opinions about the case, and must base their decisions solely on the information received in the courtroom.
The poster cautions jurors to avoid outside information about the case from the internet or other sources, and not to text, e-mail, blog, or discuss the case with family or friends.

The poster was created by the Washington Pattern Jury Instructions Committee, with private funds at no cost to taxpayers.

So, there you have it. Any thoughts on the poster?

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One Response to “Jurors! Focus on the Courtroom!”

  1. ArcticLight Says:

    All jurors should also be reminded that they have the ABSOLUTE RIGHT to employ what is called “Jury Nullification” – where you think maybe the person is guilty but the prosecutor is going above and beyond the “Law”.

    There have been a few times I think this could have been employed here..

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