November 26, 2008

Blogging jurors

Blogs take on a direction of their own. I have written far more about the DSM-V and sex offender issues than I ever thought I would when I started this blog 19 months ago. There's just a lot to say on those fronts.

Similarly, when jury consultant and trial lawyer Anne Reed started her excellent jury blog, Deliberations, she did not envision how many posts she would write about jurors who blog. But she has. And when she is quoted, interviewed, or asked to speak, social networking is the number one topic of interest.

I have a long list of topics that I never get around to, and blogging jurors is one that keeps going to the back burner. Since I haven't gotten around to writing about it yet, I've decided to point my readers to Anne Reed and let her tell you all about this interesting topic that trial lawyers in particular need to pay more attention to:
So here come two more online jurors this week, frightening lawyers everywhere. There's the Facebook juror in England who put a poll on Facebook to help her decide guilt or innocence. And there's the blogging juror here who knows she can't write about the case, but thinks that "doesn't mean I can't give people a a glimpse of the people I am dealing with," and so gives a great sketch of each person in the courtroom. ("The lead defense lawyer. When he is trying to make a point when questioning a witness he beats his hand on the jury box. "So you *wham* are telling me *wham* that blah blah blah blah blah BLAH! *WHAM*" ) The Facebook juror was dismissed; the word-sketch artist is still sitting, as far as we know.
Reed's advice to attorneys?
This is going to happen to you. It's going to happen to you. It's going to happen to you.

Four things to add to your trial task list:

1. Ask. Ask jurors in voir dire whether they write on line and if so where. If you get a "yes" to that question, you have several tools: (1) the judge can strongly impress on that particular witness that she is to write nothing about the trial, not even character sketches; (2) the lawyers can keep an eye on the juror's site during the trial; and (3) if there's time, you can jump on the juror's site before the jury is chosen to see if it contains anything of concern.

2. Look. Simply running searches by jurors' names -- before the jury is seated if possible, after if not -- you can find non-anonymous blogs, of which there are many.

3. Watch. Even if you've asked and looked, you can still have jurors writing about your trial that you didn't know about, on anonymous sites they did not disclose. If you have enough people, assign someone to set up standing searches to try to catch these, using terms the juror might choose -- the location of the court, and the type of case it is. It also makes sense to check on-line comments to news stories about the case, where you have the staffing to do it.

4. Relax. It's possible that none of these techniques will find the Facebook juror or the sketch artist on your trial. Does that mean we're in a frightening new world with intolerable new rules? I don't think so. Remember that in the old days, both jurors probably would have had talked about the case in the same way, but in conversations with their friends, not on line -- and you wouldn't have found out about those either. If anything, it's easier, not harder, to find chatty jurors than it was when they simply talked.

Click here to see her full post, with links to an entire series on blogging jurors and to her very practical Trial Lawyer's Guide To Social Networking Sites, which does the work for you inquisitive types by linking to all of the major (and many of the minor) social networking sites.

I hope all of you have a nice Thanksgiving holiday!

Photo credit: VintFalken (Creative Commons license)


Anonymous said...

Speaking of thanks, thanks for this kind post! I spent Thanksgiving weekend away from the Internet, and am just catching up now. "In The News" is an important source for me; I really appreciate the work you do here.

Karen Franklin, Ph.D. said...

Thanks for the comment, Anne. I always enjoy reading your Deliberations blog.