Attorney General: “We desperately need to retain ignorant jurors. X-factor viewers, perhaps.”

Well, almost…

Grieve continued: “The internet is a haystack of material, scattered with the odd prejudicial needle, as it were. Trial by Google allows a juror to locate the haystack, find the needle, pull it out and ascribe significance to it that it simply would never have had otherwise. It takes a minor risk and turns it into a major risk.”

‘Trial by Google’, his shorthand term for jurors searching the internet, “offends some foundational principles of our legal system. The first principle is that a conviction, or for that matter an acquittal, should be based on evidence adduced in court, in accordance with established rules of evidence, subject to the supervision of the judge.

“Trial by Google [also] offends the principle of open justice. It should be clear to the defendant, the public, the victim and the prosecution what the evidence in the case is. If a jury is exposed to prejudicial material which, for whatever reason, is not before the court, the basis on which the defendant is convicted or acquitted will never be known.”

Internet: Change happens without you.

via ‘Trial by Google’ a risk to jury system, says attorney general | Law |

One Reply to “Attorney General: “We desperately need to retain ignorant jurors. X-factor viewers, perhaps.””

  1. So I think I have somewhat more sympathy to that AG.

    I served on a criminal jury in Massachusetts in the mid 90’s.

    While in the jury pool we were asked whether we knew the defendant, the victim, or any of a short list of witnesses. We would have been excused if we did.

    We were cautioned to avoid newspapers & other news sources for the duration of the trial (which wound up taking 9 calendar days – an afternoon of jury selection on a Monday, three and a half days of testimony, and then a half day of deliberations on Friday and the following Tuesday (Monday being a holiday).

    We were presented the facts of case through a carefully controlled peephole, and whenever questions arose, the judge, prosecutor, and defense lawyer conferred out of earshot of us.

    In our trial, a witness made a brief mention of “a previous trial”, was immediately shushed, and then we the jury were ushered out of the courtroom and got to cool our heels for a bit.

    After the trial ended, the judge met briefly with the jury. I asked him about the “previous trial”, and learned that we were the second jury to hear the case – a previous attempt ended in a mistrial because that witness mentioned another crime allegedly committed by the defendant while he was out on bail after his arrest for the charges we were hearing.

    One of the principles of the law (in the US, at least) is that the guilt or innocence of a defendant depend only on the circumstances of the case. We were to determine if the facts of *this* case constituted a crime, regardless of what this guy had done before or after that day.

    Had this happened a decade later it would have been very tempting to do a search on the defendant’s name. I would likely have found news reports of both crimes and both arrests; had the defendant figured that out he’d have additional grounds for appeal.

    (for what little it’s worth, I wound up being chosen as an alternate juror, and thus didn’t participate in the deliberation or the verdict).

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