California Considers Fining Jurors Who Research or Share About Cases in Social Media for up to $1,500
Apr 25, 2016 05:28 AM EDT
California lawmakers are addressing the growing concerns of social media use by jurors. The lawmakers are considering to apply fines for jurors who share or post cases on Google or tweet about ongoing trials for as much as $1,500.
Court officials argued that improper social media use has caused mistrials and overturned convictions. The Guardian reports that the wide use of technology has posed perils in the court process, particularly in California. Especially in recent years, growing numbers of mistrials have been ruled in California because of the misuse of social media by jurors.
There is already an existing state law in California that stated that improper electronic communication or research by a juror is punishable by a court contempt. However, the lawmakers saw the need to increase and simplify the punishment, with fines, for instance.
The underlying need to increase the sanction is that contempt process can be time consuming and is rarely invoked. The new proposed sanctions for social media and internet use violations stated that it could be punishable by a fine for up to $1,500.
The bill's measure, Rich Gordon, stated the importance of changing the sanction of the misuse of social media or search engine by jurors. "It's disruptive of the judicial process, and there ought to be a fairly simple and convenient way for a judge to sanction a juror based on the order that the judge has given," Gordon said.
In addition to increasing the sanction of internet use violations by jurors, another policy on a juror's social media activity is also being discussed. According to The Los Angeles Times, critics are suggesting that judges vet the social media activity of potential jurors before selecting them.
The screening process of social media activity might prevent mistrials caused by internet or social media use violation. "If you have an Internet addict who just can't psychologically stop, you may want to excuse that person," noted Hannaford-Agor, who studies juries at the National Center for State Courts.
The Salt Lake Tribune noted some cases in which the improper internet or social media use by jurors had disrupt the judicial process. In 2011, an Arkansas court threw out a death row inmate's murder conviction because of jurors's tweets less than an hour before the verdict was announced. Another case in 2014 tossed a heroin possession conviction of two men after a juror allegedly researched the defendants' personal information and criminal records.
After years facing mistrials because of internet or social media use violation by jurors, California considers fining jurors for such violations. Under the new bill, jurors who tweets about a trial or research defendants' information on Google would be facing a fine of up to $1,500.