When jurors were chosen for the perjury trial of Barry Bonds this month, they were barred from using social media in regards to the case. There’s no such ban on lawyers, who mine the social-networking profiles of jurors to unearth a bias that might hurt – or help – their side, Bloomberg News reports. Facebook, Twitter and other services have become a major resource for both prosecutors and defense attorneys, allowing them to glean more insight than they can get from jury questionnaires, said Joseph Rice of Jury Research Institute.
“Social media has given us an incredible tool, because it’s something jurors voluntarily engage in, and they post information about their activities or affiliations or hobbies,” Rice said. That reveals “their life experience or attitude that may have an impact on how they view the facts of the case.” A West Virginia juror didn’t disclose that she was MySpace friends with the defendant, a police officer being tried on criminal charges. After the relationship came to light, a state appeals court threw out the defendant’s conviction and ordered a new trial.