Jurors and social media

A person sitting on a jury in a resisting arrest trial in Detroit was removed from the jury after posting that it’s “gonna be fun to tell the defendant they’re guilty,” before the prosecution even finished presenting its case.  The post was caught by the defense lawyer’s son, who was reviewing jurors’ facebook pages.

This illustrates two things:  1) the presumption of innocence does not exist in our courtrooms – no surprise to any practicing defense lawyer; no matter what the law says, jurors presume a defendant to be guilty until he or she proves otherwise; and 2) the importance of social media such as facebook and twitter in investigating juries.

In South Carolina, there is no attorney conducted voir dire in non-capital cases, which means that we are flying blind unless we do our own investigation of potential (and sitting) jurors – we cannot talk to the jurors or question them before jury selection, and if we do not find some way to discover information about jurors we might as well take the first twelve.  One thing that we can do is check social media sites such as facebook and twitter, both before jury selection and during the course of the trial, and attempt to discover those with extreme or off-center opinions – we know that there are people who are compelled to post their every thought and action to social media sites throughout their day, and jurors are not exempt.

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