The other day I went to get an oil change. While waiting, i sat with two men who read their itablets, another played a game on his smartphone, while I was listening to a podcast and checking twitter and facebook on mine. I read how one friend was stuck in traffic, another was getting a hot dog and a third was getting an oil change (oh wait, that was me).
Today we walk around with devices that can quickly get all sorts of information. I remember a few years ago when I was in court and before a hearing i got into a disagreement with a police officer over whether a certain clinic on the west side was privately or publicly owned. I pulled out my smartphone and quickly resolved the dispute. That was the first of now many times I have reached for my phone to get a quick answer.
So it should be no surprise that jurors don’t think twice about reaching for their smartphones to resolve their unanswered questions, or to share their experience serving on a jury with their followers.
The problem is that when a juror gets information that was not entered into evidence, after it has been subject to cross-examination by opposing counsel and scrutinized by the judge, they may be looking at something that is misleading or prejudicial. For example, repairs made after the fact are not admissible in negligence cases because they can be used to imply that the defendant has impliedly admitted negligence by fixing the dangerous situation, and from a public policy standpoint this is bad because it discourages the repair from occurring until after the litigation is completed. As you can see, there are reasons for our rules of evidence.
I think that the courts should continue in their efforts to remind jurors of their responsibilities to remain fair and untainted from opinions or “outside evidence.” It is very tempting to tweet one’s experience as a juror (as it is for me as an attorney) but this is one experience where we must refrain until our duties have been discharged.
What do you think?