Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Jurors Increasingly Using Handhelds, Phones for Research

In a front-page story, the New York Times reports, "The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges." Under "the legal system's complex rules of evidence," jurors "are required to reach a verdict based on only the facts the judge has decided are admissible." But, they can now "seek information outside of the courtroom" using "their cell phones," and "tell their friends what is happening in the jury room." And, although "judges have long amended their habitual warning about seeking outside information during trials to include Internet searches," the "risk has grown more immediate -- and instinctual." Douglas L. Keene, president of the American Society of Trial Consultants, notes that "some courts are beginning to restrict the use of cell phones by jurors within the courthouse."

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