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Juror Blogs Complicate Trials

The jury foreman wrote on his blog that the upcoming trial would require him to "listen to the local riff-raff try and convince me of their innocence." He was surprised that he was chosen for the jury, he wrote, given his strong beliefs about the police and God. None of that was enough for the trial judge -- or the New Hampshire Supreme Court -- to throw out the conviction, but, as the National Law Journal reports in an article to be published Monday, the case illustrates a new area of concern for lawyers in criminal and civil trials. Says Chester, N.H., lawyer Mark Sisti, who represented the defendant in the case:

"It's the kind of stuff that scares you because you don't know what's going on. You don't know if the jurors are communicating via this type of media or device after they are released each day, you don't know what they are picking up. It's not TV or radio, this is a whole new medium."

Many bloggers, the article suggests, decide for themselves not to blog about their jury duty, even absent instructions from the judge. But others, thanks to courthouse Internet access, blog live from the jury room. Clay S. Conrad, a Texas lawyer who writes the blog Jury Geek, told NLJ reporter Vesna Jaksic that blogging by jurors raises interesting questions. A juror is not supposed to discuss the case, he notes, but is blogging a discussion? Whether it is or not, he says, it could later produce evidence that a juror has prejudged the case.

In the New Hampshire case, the Supreme Court found no error because the blogger's posts were not shared with his fellow jurors and because he assured the trial judge that he had followed his instructions once the jury was seated, as Molly McDonough reported in October in the ABA Journal eReport. But for lawyers, the moral of the story may be that here is yet another reason why they must understand and pay attention to blogging -- and ask about it in voir dire.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on March 6, 2007 at 05:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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