While juror misbehavior is nothing new, social media have made it extremely easy—and tempting—to break the rules, and lawyers are increasingly using that as a reason for appeals, legal experts tell the Wall Street Journal. While most judges frown upon jurors’ using their smartphones while sitting in the jury box, jurors typically have full access to social media outside the courtroom. The challenge for courts is enforcing social-media bans during trials—which can last for weeks—at a time when authorities can’t even stop some people from risking their lives by sending text messages while driving.
Two-thirds of adult Internet users say they use social-networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, says the Pew Research Center. Thaddeus Hoffmeister, who researches juries at the University of Dayton School of Law, said courts need to acknowledge that “some people just can’t stop” using social media. “You have to start treating jurors less like children,” he said. “Jurors should be equal partners in the courtroom—tell them why they can’t do things.” A challenge for courts is that use of social media is difficult to detect. Last year, 79 percent of judges who responded to a survey question by the Federal Judicial Center said they had no way of knowing whether jurors had violated a social-media ban. Experts say someone would need to have access to a juror’s postings and flag it to the court.