Internet access is everywhere so the likelihood that jurors will refrain from looking up case facts, evidence, and even the attorneys involved while serving on a trial is slim to none. In fact, in two recent mediations, the mediator Googled something on her own and raised the issue with us. It went something like, “hey, you know the jury will Google this during voir dire just like I did, and this is what they will see. And they will Google the lawyers too.”
Of course internet research by jury members is not allowed, but in reality, there is no way of restricting or regulating a jury’s usage, particularly with internet availability on nearly every mobile device, especially during voir dire when they haven’t quite gotten the admonition internalized yet. This research can have serious implications, including creating a bias that can impact their decision in the case. As a result, lawyers may need to adjust their approach in the courtroom to account for these inevitable actions taken by jurors and prepare for the worst. The problem is, how do you prepare?
Some may think they need to address and refute pieces of negative information available on the internet to help prevent questions the jury could have. However, such is a very time-consuming task and could inject things into the case that don’t need to be there.
The only thing that is certain is that when jurors Google about the case and the lawyers, the entire foundation of the jury trial is shaken, i.e., that the jurors all hear the same evidence at the same time and in the same exact manner as everyone else on the panel after motions in limine have been heard, objections made, and admonitions given. I guess this is what they call “disruption.”
It seems that a prudent path could be to raise the issue with opposing counsel and then the Court before the panel is even brought down, and that the admonition about “do not discuss the case, do not Google the case, do not…..” is done the first thing out of the gate, and then repeated at every turn. Otherwise, the entire sense of fairness intended by the Seventh Amendment may be at stake.