Media, Law and Ethics
3Social Media Influence on Jurors
MEDIA, LAW & ETHICS: SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCE IN JURY MATTERS
Prepared by (Student’s Name)
In this era of modern technological advancements, the manner for which people engage in communication, access information and are thereby entertained have indeed undergone a distinctive mode of revolution. In fact, people are now focused on using the different social media platforms to link up with close relatives; new friends and the entire globe at large (Bartels & Lee, 2013). The issue relating to jurors using social media in the course of a trial as well as in the event of deliberation processess has proven to cause serious alerts on the way the aforementioned processes might turn out in the end. A juror might go ahead to seek to befriend a defendant on social media platforms in order to get opinions on a particular verdict, which has a higher chance of resulting to prejudice jurors or even resulting to a collapse of a trial. The focus of this paper is to identify this form of situations and thereby goes ahead to provide two key recommendations on how jurors could protect themselves from social media misuse to come up with prejudiced and collapse of trials.
Current Use of Social Media in Trials
In Australia, juror’s immediate adoption of social media platforms has indeed been long practiced. In fact, research indicate that most of Australian-based courts engages and maintain an active Twitter account while also allows for legal documents being served on both Facebook and LinkedIn (Bartels & Lee, 2013). Despite this fact, the fundamental aspect of this situation lies in the fact that the entire process is expected to result to a new prospects of new forms of misuse by jurors in the course of conducting a trial. In comparison to the traditional media model, the new social media allows people to create contents by themselves as opposed to accessing it through mainstream media; can allow for easier sharing of important information; and, also allows for easier control of one’s privacy especially in relation to contents shared within their respective profiles (Bartels & Lee, 2013). In essence, it is argued that jurors that engage social media to propel communication in the course of a trial or even in deliberation process have an advantage of reaching a great set of potential readers both within and outside the boundaries and to the world as a whole.
Unlike in other countries where juries have a uniformised legislation, in Australia, these legislations are not especially when related to jury impropriety as well as the confidence needed for ascertaining distinct deliberations (Bartels & Lee, 2013). The jury is subjected to exclusionary rule that protect the Australian jurors from unnecessary levels of attention, undue influence and possible harassment. In consequence, in the course of this pre-trial phase, any form of unnecessary communication from the jurors is indeed a risky affair given that evidence resulting from it cannot be upheld by the courts of law. In truth, going ahead to either interview jurors or even seeking information from them in relation to deliberation process could result to a distinct disciplinary action that might result to criminal implications (Bartels & Lee, 2013). On a similar note, Australian jurors are not permitted to communicate any form of protected information in regards to their particular service to family members of even the extensive public; information that is directly linked to deliberation process. Although these stipulations having been made clear to jurors, there still has been a good number of cases within Australian whereby the jurors engaged in social medial networking platforms in the course of a trial and as a result, sharing sensitive and protected information thereby causing immediate disruption of court proceedings and thereafter, even impending a defendant’s right to a fair justice.
Below are cases for which Jurors in Australia used social media in the course of trial and deliberation process thereby causing unnecessary interferences. In 2010, one of the jurors in Victoria went ahead to post on his Facebook page that “Everyone’s Guilty” (Bartels & Lee, 2013). He also failed to report for jury duty while a certain case was in progress. This conduct was however; noted earlier enough within the trial process and this particular jury was discharged of his duties. In fact, the juror was later reported to Victoria Police for these inappropriate communications of protected information and was charged under the Juries Act 200 0(Bartels & Lee, 2013).
In yet another case;involving Hall J, jurors were perceived to have misused social medial in the course of trial. In this case, the jurors befriended each other on Facebook as result rendering Hall refusing to relocate a trial since there were already prejudicial and threatening statements that had been made in relation to the accused on Facebook page.
Notwithstanding, there has been a more relaxed form of technique that has continually been used even in despite of not being permitted by judicial direction. In the case; Benbrika v The Queen, the Victorian Court of Appeal, went ahead to dismiss a certain appeal for which it was established that there were internet searches by jurors in the case that tainted the entire case as a whole (Bartels & Lee, 2013). In fact, Judge Bongiorno went ahead to forewarn the jurors who had engaged the internet sites sought to provide definition regarding terrorism trials ascertaining that the definition was not substantially different from the ones being used in the course of the proceedings. This, the judge ascertained that could led to discharge of the jurors involved with the internet searched.
Prevention strategies are the best known ways for eliminating or even reducing the misuse of social media sites by the jurors in the course of trial. The paper suggests the following two techniques for this purpose.
First, in order to eliminate or even reduce the effect of the misuse then it is important to educate and train both judges and jurors on matters related to the use and misuse of social media platforms and the internet as a whole. In fact, education of these two groups is indeed relatively non-intrusive in nature. The capacity to avail more explicit information in relation to the adoption and use of social media by jury prior and in the course of their jury duties should form the initial section of the entire induction process (Bartels & Lee, 2013). Some of the research indicates that there should be immediate placement f posters as well as other visual aids within a jury deliberation room for the purpose of reminding them of their immediate commitment towards specific cases. This remains a sensible recommendation especially when some of these jurors might overhear or even failed to comprehend a judge’s oral instructions towards the case at hand. In essence, particular information that can be added to the courts’ online information in regards to jury duty or even information booklets thereby availed to the jurors at hand (Bartels & Lee, 2013). In regards to the overall judicial training, it has been noted that the underlying legal system should be able to conduct automatic updates in order to keep in touch with the current developments within that sector. It is crucial to note that currently both the AIJA and National Judicial College of Australia are fairly positioned to provide education-based seminars on the use and impacts of social media platforms. These sessions are aimed at informing judges on the mid-career and expanding their degree of awareness on the possible influence of social media in both current law and practice models.
Secondly, to eliminate or even reduce the level of effect of social media on trials by jurors can be done through banning of communication devices in both the court and deliberation rooms (Bartels & Lee, 2013). In fact, currently, efforts have already been placed in Tasmania and Australian Capital Territory to confiscate jurors’ phone and other modern technological gadgets while courts proceedings are underway (Bartels & Lee, 2013). In some other parts of Australia, phones and other gadgets are confiscated while the verdict is being considered. However, this methodology might not be effective since social networking is conducted outside the courts’ proceedings. It might also pose a restriction to public confidence in the existing jury and thereby result to people being less willing to serve in the event that they cannot be allowed to access the internet altogether (Bartels & Lee, 2013). Following this kind of reasoning, a much nuanced technique; which allows for recognition of jurors’ on the use of social media for some aspects but not others that should be laid-out well. This solution should be both practicable and enforceable especially since there are a good number of people that are in constant use of social media and who cannot be prevented to engage it given that trials take a substantial amount of period before a verdict is made.
Bartels, L & Lee, J. 2013, Jurors Using Social Media in Our Courts: Challenges and Responses. JJA, vol.23, pp. 35-57