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The growth and prolific presence of social media has impacted the justice system and specifically the fundamental right to an impartial jury. Jurors accessing the Internet and social media during trials has become a significant concern as verdicts have come under challenge and cases appealed. In addition, as a generation of potential jurors who have always accessed the Internet and who routinely use social media enter the courtroom, the importance of revising jury instructions to address juror conduct are all the more important. The need to expand and modernize instructions to address social media use has been felt by courts in jurisdictions across the country. In response, jury instructions are being reworked to include social media use. The Federal Evidence Review's Federal Jury Instructions Resource page includes the section "Juror Use of Electronic Social Media".
The Proposed Model Jury Instructions: The Use of Electronic Technology to Conduct Research or to Communicate about a Case (June 2012) prepared by the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management, addresses juror behavior regarding the Internet and other electronic tools:
"You as jurors, must decide this case based solely on the evidence presented here…This means that during the trial you must not conduct any independent research about this case…you should not consult dictionaries or reference materials, search the Internet, websites, blogs, or use any other electronic tools to obtain information about this case...You may not communicate with anyone about the case on your cell phone, through email, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, through any blog or website, including Facebook, Google+, My Space, LinkedIn or YouTube. You may not use any similar technology of social media…"
Much has been written about the issue of Internet/social media use by jurors. Included in the list below are a selected sample of articles found online. Additionally, search engines such as Google and databases such as HeinOnline (Access is restricted to members of the Marquette Community) and Westlaw (Westlaw access is restricted to faculty and students of Marquette University Law School through individual usernames and passwords) can be searched for more information on this topic.
For Wisconsin's response to the issue of Internet/social media use by jurors, please see the Wisconsin box below.
In December 2009 the Wisconsin Criminal Jury Instructions were modified to include instructions admonishing jurors not to conduct research on the case on which they are serving or to use social media to communicate about the case. The Wisconsin Civil Jury Instructions have also been modified to contain language about social media or Internet use.
Wis. JI-Criminal. 50 (2010) reads, in part:
Do not research any information that you personally think might be helpful to you in understanding the issues presented. Do not investigate this case on your own or visit the scene. Do not read any newspaper reports or listen to any news reports on radio or television about this trial. Do not consult dictionaries, computers, web sites or other reference materials for additional information."
"Do not communicate with anyone about this trial or your experience as a juror while you are serving on this jury. Do not use a computer, cell phone, or other electronic device with communication capabilities to share any information about this case. For example, do not communicate by blog, e-mail, text message, twitter, or in any other way, on or off the computer."
Wis. JI-Civil 50 (2011) reads, in part:
"Do not research any information that you personally think might be helpful to you in understanding the issues presented. Do not investigate this case on your own or visit the scene. Do not read any newspaper reports or listen to any news reports on radio or television about this trial. Do not consult dictionaries, computers, web sites or other reference materials for additional information."