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Blogging jurors : Thoughts from all sides

The National Law Journal’s Vesna Jaksic called on various parties, judges, lawyers and non-legal professionals, to get their opinions on the propriety of blogging jurors.

Comes on the heels of a couple cases. One, a New Hampshire case where the defendant was convicted of sexual assault. The juror foreman posted to his blog four days before jury selection that he would have to ‘listen to the local riff-raff try and convince me of their innocence.’ Defense counsel, who didn’t learn of the blog post until jury deliberations, alleged the blog showed the juror was biased against criminal defendants and that a new trial should take place.

The judge agreed to question the jurors but did not throw out the guilty verdict. The New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld the verdict in September 2006.

The second case is from last July where a blogger posted, from the jury waiting room equipped with WiFi, ‘So of course that means one thing: I’m live blogging jury duty,’Is this legal?’

Thoughts from judges, lawyers, journalists, and bloggers:

  • Josh Hallett, a consultant to various bloggers and newspapers, checked with several lawyer friends before deciding not to blog about jury duty. ‘The general gist was: I could talk about the overall selection process and arriving at the courthouse, but when I got down to the trial itself I couldn’t.’
  • Blogger, Robert Hashemian, a Web programmer in Ridgefield, Conn., knew not to write about his civil trial until after the verdict even though the judge did not specifically discuss blogging. ‘We’re not supposed to talk about anything while it’s going on.’
  • Clay Conrad, a partner at Conrad, Marteeny & Looney in Houston who publishes Jury Geek, a blog about juror issues:
  • Jurors aren’t supposed to discuss the case with anyone else, but are they discussing the case if they are posting information about it but not hearing anything back?
  • Could provide evidence that a juror lied or fudged the truth during voir dire resulting in a motion for new trial.
  • New York trial Judge Helen Freedman says jurors should not blog until the trial is over. ‘You’re not supposed to talk to anyone about the case, so by posting or blogging you’re talking to people about the case.
  • Steve Leben, a Kansas state district judge and president of the American Judges Association, believes jury instructions will likely evolve as people communicate in new ways like blogging
  • Fort Lauderdale attorney, Bob Kelley, who publishes a blog on the state’s jury selection process, says lawyers should know by now to check whether potential jurors have blogs. ‘Any lawyer who does not inquire during jury selection about a juror’s Internet presence — whether it be a Web site, a blog, an account on MySpace or an account on — hasn’t done their job.’
  • As a former trial lawyer of 17 years, I’m with Bob. Good trial lawyers need to stay up to speed with the changing times. Doing so requires asking jurors doing voire dire if they publish a blog and whether they have been or will be discussing the trial or its subject on their blog. That can lead the juror’s disqualification and a possible admonition from the judge that jurors preclusion from discussing the case includes blogs.

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