Despite anecdotal evidence of jurors misbehaving when using the Internet and social media (for instance, the recent article on Slaw English Court Jails Juror Who Used Internet Search), a recent survey of members of the U.S. federal judiciary reveals that the problem appears less widespread than many assume.
The Federal Judicial Center was asked by a committee of the policy-making Judicial Conference of the United States to survey federal judges on the issue (response rate was 53%).
The results, based on the responses of 508 responding judges, indicate that detected social media use by jurors is infrequent, and that most judges have taken steps to ensure jurors do not use social media in the courtroom. The most common strategy is incorporating social media use into jury instructions (…) Also common are the practice of reminding jurors on a regular basis not to use social media to communicate during trial or deliberations, explaining the reasons behind the ban on social media, and confiscating electronic devices in the courtroom. Judges admit that it is difficult to police jurors.
Only 30 of the 508 judges who responded reported instances of detected social media use by jurors during trials or deliberations.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that the situation is similar in Canada.
Maybe all the fuss over Juror (Mis)Behavior in the Information Age is exaggerated. Of course, it is also possible that a lot of the illicit juror tweeting, Google searching, LinkedIn’ing and Facebooking may very well escape the attention of judges. Most judges find out about juror misuse of Net media from tattling by other jurors or lawyers (perhaps lawyers who feel they are losing the case?).