The Googling Juror: The Fate of the Jury Trial in the Digital Paradigm

This paper considers the challenges posed by the information communication technologies of the Digital Paradigm to existing concepts of the fair trial by an impartial jury. It will argue that it is necessary to recognise the existence of the new technologies and that they will be used by jurors. It will suggest steps that may be taken and solutions that may be adopted to address such activity which maintain the integrity of the criminal jury trial and its continued place, unchanged, within the legal spectrum.

 The paper addresses the nature of the problem and the issues that arise from the wide availability of information on the Internet and will address two major ways in which information use may potentially cause difficulties for the juror. These may be described as “information in” – juror research which may result in information coming into the jury room, and which may be disclosed or made available to other jurors – and “information out” – communications emanating from sitting jurors about the trial, the state of deliberations and of seeking external advice.

The paper examines some possible reasons why it is that jurors wish to ignore judicial instruction and carry out their own researches. This will be viewed in light of the effect that new technologies may have on our wider expectation of information availability and the way in which those technologies enable behaviours.

The paper refers to recent research which may challenge the assumption that juror research may automatically result in a mistrial or is prejudicial to the trial process and offers some possible solutions to the problem. One is to consider juror education that goes beyond a judicial prohibition on “out-of-court” research. The other is to consider a nuanced and graduated response that may be applied when juror misconduct comes to light. The paper concludes that while so challenged, the jury system can survive the encounter with new information technologies.

A part of this paper – Why Do Jurors Go On-Line – was published as a stand-alone piece here. The paper was presented to the International Criminal Law Congress in Queenstown, New Zealand on Thursday 13 September 2012.

In essence the paper argues that changing information expectations on the part of “digital native” jurors are having an impact upon the jury trial – which uses an archaic oral means of communication information. This creates a tension with the “information now” non-linear means of information acquisition that digital technologies allow. The suggestion is that there are a number of means of addressing the problem and adapting trial processes to accommodate the information expectations of jurors. In addition, it suggests a nuanced approach to dealing with juror misconduct based on an analysis of information flows and possible impact upon the outcome of the trial.

  

 

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