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Social media and juries

The Baltimore Sun ran a story the other day about social media and its role in jury selection. Federal prosecutors in state Sen. Ulysses S. Currie’s corruption case removed the names of potential jurors from questionnaires to prevent defense lawyers from looking them up online.

If that were to happen, “the court’s ‘supervisory control over the jury selection process would, as a practical matter, be obliterated,’” prosecutors wrote in a letter to the judge.

I have to disagree. It’s not that I don’t understand the logic behind what prosecutors are doing. There is a lot of personal information on the Internet; some is information that people have chosen to place there themselves and some is information that they have little-to-no control over. Googleing and Facebooking members of the jury pool is going to give lawyer a ton of information about the person that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

Part of the argument against Googleing members of the jury is that it could give an unfair advantage to the legal team that decides to do it.

But it wouldn’t. Come on, you’re a lawyer and you can’t figure out a way to Google someone? If a lawyer seriously doesn’t have access to Googleable information, then maybe you should think twice before hiring that lawyer.

The Internet is so prevalent now, it makes no sense to argue that an attorney might not have access to the Internet and therefore we must ban the Googleing of jurors. Why not disallow the use of Lexis and Westlaw too? Wouldn’t it be unfair for one lawyer to use this resource if another one couldn’t?

Additionally, the information gleaned from Facebooking will not always be advantageous in jury selection. Yes, people and their friends do post information about themselves. The veracity of this information however . . . I mean, don’t bet the outcome of your case on it.

One comment

  1. Courts are worried that they will have difficulty, and it will take longer, to seat a jury… But, the converse to that problem is that people who ought to be excluded from the jury may get selected… Which is the more troubling outcome? Let the adversarial system do its job. More information is better than less.