The Washington Post has weighed in on the issue of jurors’ using the Internet during trials. The Web provides easy and instant access to newspaper archives, criminal records, detailed maps, legal opinions, and social-networking sites, all at the anonymous click of a mouse in jurors’ homes or on the tiny keyboards of their cellular phones. “This is a generational change, and I don’t know if the legal system is ready for it,” said Thaddeus Hoffmeister, a law professor at the University of Dayton Law School, who studies jury issues.
Legal scholars and lawyers disagree about how to handle the problem. Some say judges should warn jurors more explicitly about the Internet; others advocate giving jurors more information during trials. Most throw up their hands. No matter what steps are taken, they say, jurors will probably just keep Googling and texting and tweeting. “I’m not sure what you can do about it nowadays, to tell you the truth, especially for younger people,” said A.J. Kramer, Washington, D.C.’s federal public defender. “That’s what they grow up doing. You just have to figure it’s happening. They go home at night and look up whatever they can. That’s what people do.”