Jurors who are accustomed to turning to the Internet for everyday information are crashing the court system more often, reports The Oregonian. Last week in Washington County Circuit Court, a judge dismissed a jury that had deliberated for more than four hours over two days after he became aware that two jurors disobeyed his orders and looked up legal concepts on their home computers. “It isn’t becoming a trend — it is a trend,” said Douglas Keene, an Austin, Tx., forensic psychologist who has worked with juries for 15 years and is president-elect of the American Society of Trial Consultants. Mistrials based on jurors getting outside information are not common but are happening more, he said.
The jury foreman said two jurors had gone home the night before and looked up “implied consent” and “beyond a reasonable doubt” on a Web site. One of them also looked up the accuracy of a field sobriety test administered in the case. The foreman wanted to know whether it was OK to use that information and, if it wasn’t, could the judge please clear up their confusion himself. The judge could have declared a mistrial, but the defense attorney asked the judge to hand down a verdict, which he did. The defender said the only way to avoid what happened last week in his case is to sequester juries: no television, no phones, no computers, no outside contact during the trial or deliberations. “I didn’t know if they went to a defense Web site or a cop Web site,” he said. “Web sites can say anything, and very little of it is true.”