MA Appeals Court: Judges Must Warn Jurors About Social Media Use


The Massachusetts Appeals Court has called on judges to better police jurors' use of the Internet and social media to make sure they do not discuss cases online, and thus risk a mistrial, reports the Boston Globe. The court said judges need to do more to explain to jurors that refraining from conversations about a case also means not posting anything about it on Facebook or Twitter, common practice in today's technology-driven world. “Jurors must separate and insulate their jury service from their digital lives,'' the court said in a ruling involving a Plymouth Superior Court case in which several jurors made comments on Facebook during a trial.

“Instructions not to talk or chat about the case should expressly extend to electronic communications and social media,'' the court said. The directive follows a national trend, as such cases are reaching the appellate courts. Last year in Arkansas, for instance, that state's high court overturned a murder conviction that carried the death penalty after finding that a juror tweeted that a verdict was reached before the court was notified. Law groups, such as the National Center for State Courts and a federal judicial conference committee, have also drafted advisory jury instructions, to limit the danger social media can pose to a jury's private deliberations.

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