The fake tweet from comedian Steve Martin illustrates the problem faced by judges these days with jurors’ using social media: Report from jury duty: defendant looks like a murderer. GUILTY. Waiting for opening remarks. The Columbus Dispatch says a Franklin County jury was deliberating a murder case last week when a juror announced that she had looked up the definition of a legal term on her tablet computer. Before she could read it aloud, other jurors told her she had violated the judge's order not to do outside research. Judge Tim Horton removed her from the jury. It was the second time in 15 months that a local judge dismissed a juror for using an electronic device to research a case. “We're all very concerned. These are just the times it gets reported. What about the ones who are doing it and not telling anyone?” said Charles Schneider, the administrative judge for Common Pleas Court.
Judges in federal, state and municipal courts always have warned jurors not to investigate a case on their own. The instant access that cellphones and personal computers provide to the Internet makes it easier than ever for jurors to violate those instructions and imperil a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial. A survey of federal judges found 6 percent saying jurors in their cases had used social media to communicate during a trial or deliberations and nearly 30 percent of judges confiscated phones and other electronic devices during jury deliberations.