New WA Trial Raises Issue: Can Jurors Be Kept Off The Internet?


After a five-week trial, a Seattle judge ordered a retrial after a jury foreman violated her orders not to do any research on the case by going online to check on potential sentences on different degrees of rape, reports the Seattle Times. The juror, a man in his 60s, said that in his line of work, there's not a week that goes by when he's not researching some product. “So I fell into work habits, I guess,” said the man, who has worked as a software engineer and system-support manager. The foreman's misconduct came to light only because jurors agreed to sit with the lawyers afterward and discuss the case.

The action means a new trial for Abdulkadir Gargar, 26, accused of assaulting a woman in a motel. Gargar speaks Somali, and interpreters alone in the trial cost more than $20,000. In Seattle’s King County, new trials have been ordered in criminal and civil cases due to jurors’ going online. Michael Downes, presiding judge of Snohomish County Superior Court, says: “It's almost reflexive. We want to know something and we go on the Internet.” He tells jurors to suspend that habit: “I stress it very heavily at the beginning of the case, and then at every recess, I remind them.”

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