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Will Proposed Model Jury Instructions Combat Social Media in Court?

By Robyn Hagan Cain on August 21, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

You may have heard about jurors who can’t stop texting, tweeting, Facebooking during a trial. Some judges consider such behavior annoying. Others consider it grounds for a mistrial.

Instead of leaving the questions of where social media and smartphones cross the line up to a trial judge or appellate court, the Judicial Conference Committee on Court Administration and Case Management (CACM) has proposed model jury instructions regarding electronic technology use during trial.

The official document, Proposed Model Jury Instructions The Use of Electronic Technology to Conduct Research on or Communicate about a Case, is available here.

The new guidelines provide detailed explanations of the consequences of social media use during a trial, along with recommendations for repeated reminders of the ban on social media usage.

Judge Julie A. Robinson, CACM Committee chair explained that judges suggested that the jurors be reminded throughout the trial that social media discussions about the case are unacceptable.

"The judges recommended that jurors frequently be reminded about the prohibition on social media before the trial, at the close of a case, at the end of each day before jurors return home, and other times, as appropriate. Jurors should be told why refraining from use of social media promotes a fair trial. Finally, jurors should know the consequences of violations during trial, such as mistrial and wasted time. Those recommendations are now part of the guidelines," Judge Robinson said.

And since most social-media-during-trial problems are reported by fellow jurors, the revised jury instructions promote tattling. The proposed model jury instructions state: "You can only discuss the case in the jury room with your fellow jurors during deliberations. I expect you will inform me as soon as you become aware of another juror's violation of these instructions."

Will the repetition be enough? Can jurors stop updating their statuses during trial?

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