According to a report in yesterday’s New York Times, there have been at least three cases nationwide—in journalism, three = TREND!—that point to what may become a larger problem: jury members using iPhones, BlackBerries, and other mobile devices to access the Internet, including Facebook and Twitter, during a trial. The resulting jury contamination can be used as a reason for throwing out the case and starting over.
The piece says that a federal trial in Florida this week had to be declared a mistrial as eight of the twelve jurors had been doing research on the case on the Internet.
The week before, “a building products company asked an Arkansas court to overturn a $12.6 million judgment, claiming that a juror used Twitter to send updates during the civil trial.”
A similar incident happened in Pennsylvania on Monday—the defense lawyers asked the judge in a federal corruption case trial of a former Pennsylvania state senator that a mistrial be declared because one juror had posted updates on Facebook and Twitter.
I’ve never been on a jury, but if I did, I’d probably have my iPhone close at hand. So I can totally understand the temptation to do online searches about a court case, or heck, even Twitter about it. That said, this really does go against that whole centuries-old traditions of jurisprudence thing.
So, this begs the question—how long until someone lets loose an iFart in a courtroom?