Keeping jurors away from social media sites during trial - - Jackson, MS

Keeping jurors away from social media sites during trial

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By Ashley Conroy

JACKSON, MS (WLBT) - Call it a sign of the times as social media sites are getting in the way of courtroom trials. Jury members are sometimes logging on to sites using their cell phones or laptops during a trial.

The Mississippi State Supreme Court is trying to do something about it.

Supreme Court Justice George Carlson says they created the "Model Jury Instructions Commission", and decided to address the issue of keeping jurors away from using social web sites.

"You can't say we're going to keep your Blackberry or laptop or whatever."  

Justice Carlson says some judges throughout the state are already using a "jury instruction" list to ask jurors to stay off of social sites during a trial.

However, he says keeping jury members away from social media once they step out of the courtroom is a different story.

"It's a matter certainly of trusting the jurors to abide by the instructions of the court," Justice Carlson said.

Mississippi College School of Law Professor Matthew Steffey says it's probably more harmful for jurors to browse these sites than to catch a glimpse of the evening news.

"You also have the problem with new media itself, which can be scandalous, inaccurate, misleading."

In addition, Steffey recalls witnessing a trial about a year ago where a juror pulled out their phone and used it during that trial.

"And noticed that a juror actually sent or received a text message or both during a trial," Professor Steffey said.

Facebook stats show that over 400 million consumers use the social site, and that 50 percent of those log-in everyday.

Justice Carlson says keeping jurors off of these sites will be a challenge, and something that will take time.

"No time table on completion. I think by the early part of next year, we will have some time table on where we stand."

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