Consumer Law Articles
Written By: Arthur F. Licata, Esq.
Arthur F. Licata, P.C.
Did you ever wonder what a potential juror is thinking as he or she is waiting to be selected as a juror? Typically, a juror is ushered into a large courtroom by a court officer, and numbers are called at random by the court clerk. These numbers match the numbers of individual jurors. Once a person’s number is called they are asked questions by the judge and the attorneys who represent the parties in the lawsuit. These questions are designed to eliminate jurors who are biased; and who are unable to objectively decide the case upon the facts presented as evidence. or who are unsuitable in some manner to the attorneys representing the parties. If they meet all the criteria, the first 12 qualified jurors are seated in the jury box along with two alterative jurors. There are alternates in case one of the 12 jurors is unable to perform his or her duties, e.g., illness.
It is then that the jurors have a chance to start looking around. They usually try to figure out who are these people and why they are unable to settle their differences instead of going to trial. In the past, the judge would admonish the jurors not to talk about the case with one another until they began their final deliberations. In the past, jurors had a hard time obeying the court’s instructions because for as long as the trial lasted the only people who were available to chat were their fellow jurors. Today, those same instructions by the court are impossible to enforce and very difficult for jurors to obey.
Jurors come to court with many different types of electronic devices: they have smart phones; they have iPads; they have laptops; and they have big and small tablets. Each person may have several of each electronic device. All these devices can perform a multitude of functions many of which are inappropriate for the jurors to use at court; and many of which allow them to access information that may prejudice their deliberations. They can send text messages, emails, tweats, etc. They can talk to their friends at lunch time. Many succumb to the temptation to talk about the demeanor of the judge, attorneys, witnesses and the parties themselves. They can publicize their opinions on all types of social media such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Google and Yahoo.
What no one accurately foresaw was the unanticipated events from all this technology upon the legal system. Jurors can Google the judge, the parties, their attorneys, witnesses, employers, friends of the parties , prior arrest records, and even the issues under dispute. For example, if the case was about the death of a driver under the influence of alcohol jurors could access the print and electronic media which reported the story when it happened. The news stories may or may not have the accurate facts. Many times the facts only become available after a full investigation. Even then, it may depend upon who performed the investigation and who paid for it. Think of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
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Arthur F. Licata, Esq.