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Do jurists really not talk about cases with their loved ones?
August 25, 2010 10:04 AM   Subscribe

I am a juror in a criminal case. I'm really considering: a.) talking to my wife about it; and b.) googling a couple things related to it. Just how bad of a citizen am I? Will I get caught?

I just served my first day of jury duty in a case. Without giving away any detail, the case involves the failure, or infallibility of, a machine. There are some interesting personalities involved, but it's fairly local, victimless and insignificant.

The hearing is to continue tomorrow, and the judge sent us home tonight with the admonishment to refrain from talking about, visiting locations from, or researching anything pertaining to this case. Boilerplate stuff in this age of unlimited information, I'm sure.

My wife and I, like most partners, I assume, share pretty much everything, and I'm dying to tell her all about it when she gets home from a class tonight. There are really funny lawyers, other jurors, and many other things I know she'd really enjoy hearing about. Plus of course I just want to hear her opinion on it.

Furthermore, I can't help but be interested in other cases involving the aforementioned machine. I know as a juror, I'm supposed to only consider what is presented in court, and I think I can, for the most part. But I'm the kind of person who reads movie plots on wikipedia before I see the film sometimes, and I'm having a hard time resisting the urge to see if this defense has been previously used.

I'm wondering, do other people do these things? Is something wrong with me? And is it possible the defense lawyers could look me in the eye tomorrow and ask if I did any offline evidence collecting, forcing me to lie or be hauled away in handcuffs for contempt?
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (64 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Please, just wait until the trial is over. Then you can talk and research all you want. Don't risk having this case go to a retrial, which would cost both sides a lot in time and money.
posted by zsazsa at 10:07 AM on August 25, 2010 [39 favorites]


Don't do it. You can wait to talk to your wife about the case after the trial is done and becomes a matter of public record. As for the research, don't do that either. They need you to weigh the evidence they provide; not the research you do which can sway your opinion.

You agreed to be on the jury. Be ethical and follow the rules.
posted by onhazier at 10:10 AM on August 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


And is it possible the defense lawyers could look me in the eye tomorrow and ask if I did any offline evidence collecting, forcing me to lie or be hauled away in handcuffs for contempt?

Yes. Or, more likely, the Judge. Just wait until after the trial.
posted by amro at 10:10 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yeah -- don't due it. It will prejudice your verdict. That's a corruption of the legal system we all depend on.
posted by ericb at 10:11 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do not do this. As zsazsa says, you are risking a mistrial. Suppose you are asked under oath whether you did any research about the case outside the courtroom - are you really prepared to commit perjury to satisfy this itch? Follow the court's rules or recuse yourself from the trial.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:12 AM on August 25, 2010


Of course other people do these things. Other people discuss these things with their spouse/friends/random acquaintances.

But that doesn't mean you should. Put yourself in the defendat's shoes. Would you want members of the jury to be Googling you, looking through the friends list on your Facebook page, ar read up on similar cases?

Even if you can live with being a bad juror, at least give the other people involved in the case a little bit of respect; doing the things you're talking about doing car bias you in ways you may not even be aware of; the human mind is a funny thing that way.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 10:13 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


If they find out you googled it, the jury's verdict will be thrown out, and retrying a case is a massive waste of judicial time and taxpayer money. It's possible you could be held in contempt of court, though I'm not aware of a "googling" case of that.

Moreover, the more often jurors break these rules, the more often judges feel compelled to sequester jurors and keep them locked in a hotel for days on end with no newspapers or internet access. Some courthouses now confiscate phones, even from the lawyers (which didn't used to be the case, even if they were confiscating from individuals).

In short, breaking the rules ruins it for the rest of us.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:13 AM on August 25, 2010 [14 favorites]


you are to decide the case based upon the evidence put before you. if you find out extra info you are no longer doing that. please just follow the rules.
posted by nadawi at 10:14 AM on August 25, 2010


Please don't. Forget the risk to you--it's not about you. Let me repeat this is not about you. The person on trial is--as far as you are concerned--innocent and deserves a fair hearing. A fair hearing requires you to follow the rules.

Don't break them because what's at stake is significantly more important than your experience of being a juror. You'll have plenty of time to talk about that once the case is over.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:14 AM on August 25, 2010 [20 favorites]


And is it possible the defense lawyers could look me in the eye tomorrow and ask if I did any offline evidence collecting, forcing me to lie or be hauled away in handcuffs for contempt?

Yes. Or, more likely, the Judge.


Yep. I've served on a number of juries and in each case the judge asked if we followed the instructions he left us with the afternoon prior.
posted by ericb at 10:15 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You say it's a criminal case, and then say it's "insignificant." If you were being prosecuted criminally, would it be insignificant to you?

There are really good reasons for those rules that you call "boilerplate." Violating them makes it next to impossible for the lawyers to handle the case properly, and worst-case scenario could lead to an unfair verdict.

Hold off talking and doing your research till after the trial, when, as has already been stated, you can do it to your heart's content. You may very well even have the opportunity to talk to the lawyers after the case is over; I did, when I was on a jury recently.
posted by greenmagnet at 10:16 AM on August 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Let's say you were a defendant, charged with a crime and bashed in the media, yet innocent (let's call this hypothetical person Amanda K. Or maybe A. Knox). The trial you are in has all the facts directly from those involved, with specific instructions from the judge on how to handle the case. Would you feel comfortable, as a defendant, knowing that your jury, those in charge of your decisions, may be reading newspapers containing biases (either for or against you), or speaking to individuals who may have formed opinions based on facts not presentable in court? What if those conversations and articles impacted the decision of your jury? I know I'd be uncomfortable.

It is also highly unethical, 100% against the oath I'm guessing you swore beforehand, and you were specifically requested not to do so. And if you got caught, as unlikely as that may be, depending on your location there could be consequences depending on the extent of that outside influence.

Sorry - juries messing around really gets under my skin.
posted by evadery at 10:16 AM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I was a juror on a murder trial earlier this year and, like with all jurors, received the instructions not to talk about the case or Google information about it. I took that charge very seriously because I"m a lawyer and the intent is to maintain the integrity of the process. Since if you were ever in court you'd want the jurors to respect your rights to a fair trial, you should provide the same service to others. Also, the lawyers and judges put a lot of time into preparing for trial, and if there were a mistrial you'd have single-handedly bollixed up years of work for them.

In my case, it did make a real difference in the outcome. The defendant was charged with both 1st degree and 2nd degree murder, but because the evidence presented by the prosecutor failed to provide a convincing motive, we could only convict on the latter. After the trial I Googled the defendant and found a huge newspaper article about the case that included a lot of speculation about the true motive (revenge for stealing a jacket). If my co-jurors had read that, we would have been much more likely to convict on 1st degree murder, especially because the defense wouldn't have had the chance to rebut the allegations in the newspaper article. That wouldn't have been just.

And no, there's nothing wrong with you for being curious. You just need to suppress your curiosity. There'll be plenty of time to tell your stories once the trial is over.
posted by gabrielsamoza at 10:18 AM on August 25, 2010 [7 favorites]


Please do not do this. The litigants in your case deserve an unbiased jury, just as you and your wife would deserve an unbiased jury if you were accused of a crime--and not some loose cannon going off and researching your lives and past brushes with the law to determine whether you should be labeled guilty or innocent. Moreover, you cannot get your wife's opinion on the case!

You have sworn an oath to uphold the law, and to follow the Court's instructions. Don't be a scoundrel. Give these people a fair day in court; this is the very essence of the American judicial system.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 10:19 AM on August 25, 2010 [5 favorites]


I see nothing wrong with recanting the facts and stories of what was said in court with your wife. It is an open and public courtroom I assume. Funny stories are ok. I would not indicate to her which way, if any, you are leaning so far. Ask her not to give her opinion. Only discuss what was said in open court.

As for Googling this thing, it is highly unlikely you will get caught, but the judge asked you not to, so don't.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:20 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Yes, I agree with everyone above. I was on the jury of a trial a couple of years ago in which the defendant was accused of a double-homicide and rape. We convicted him, and after the trial, I found out that he was a level 3 sex offender. There's no way I could have remained unbiased if I had had that information during the trial.

Please don't do it. You might not think that you'll come up with anything to bias you, but you have no way to know until you've read that information.
posted by cider at 10:23 AM on August 25, 2010


This happened to me. I did not google the defendant until I was dismissed from the jury. Then I googled him and my attitude changed dramatically. I'd have been much more inclined to vote guilty with that information. Even without having attended the trial, I'd have wanted to vote guilty to get that scum off the streets. I was amazed at how much my attitude changed.
posted by Area Control at 10:23 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can absolutely be asked by the court whether you have followed their instructions. Is satisfying your impulses worth putting yourself in that situation?

As far as the practical repercussions? Probably none. I'm sure someone somewhere has had their computer confiscated and browser history checked but if it happened much at all you'd have heard about it.

As far as victimless and insignificant, by the way? It's not victimless if there's criminal or civil penalties involved, which there have to be for there to be a case. Someone may be ordered to write a small or not so small check as a result of this case so don't be flip about your duty.

I don't have a strong opinion one way or the other about whether we handle juries and evidence correctly in our system, but do not pretend for a second that there are not potentially huge repercussions to the parties involved. It could be a $500 judgment but to the people involved in this case that could be life-changing. It's not right for you to substitute your judgment for whether this case is meaningful or not.
posted by phearlez at 10:25 AM on August 25, 2010


The theoretical structure of the system relies on you adhering to the rules.

Each charge has unique elements. Attorneys fight to get certain things put into and taken out of the jury instructions. The presentation of law, facts, and evidence is very carefully choreographed, with the clear understanding that your knowledge will be limited to the universe of the courtroom.

If you are not a completely blank slate, none of this can function in a meaningful way. Depriving a defendant of her right to a fair jury is the first step on the sorry road to a system of kangaroo courts.
posted by thejoshu at 10:25 AM on August 25, 2010


Don't do it.

The information you find via google could be so so so wrong, and you'll have colored your perceptions of the case with incorrect information.

Your wife hasn't been a participant in the case, which means that her opinions are going to be shaped by a lack of information or by incorrect or even biassed information.

Ask yourself: If *I* were on trial and there was a lot of incorrect or biassed information about me or the crime on the web, would I want people on the jury making up their minds with THAT info, or would I want them to make up their mind based on the facts presented in the courtroom?

Don't do it.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:27 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Oh, and: yes, jurors do google and tweet. It is becoming a gigantic problem - one that does not need your contribution.
posted by thejoshu at 10:29 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Curiosity is normal but, as you've probably figured out by now, it's a bad idea to disobey a judge's orders.

Maybe writing down your thoughts and questions about the case (privately -- only for yourself!) will help scratch the itch in the meantime.

Thanks for doing your civic duty!
posted by giraffe at 10:30 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd be so tempted!

I think it comes down to what respect you have for the justice system. I'm generally not a huge 'reverence for the majesty of the law' person, but I have to say that I have a lot of respect for the ideals and (aspirations of) integrity of our criminal justice system, and since the burden of any negative impact could very likely rest on another human being, I'd reign myself in and put my trust in the system over my trust of myself.

Nothing against keeping a diary though, to share all the good stuff with your partner later, or keep track of things you'd like to look up after the trial!
posted by Salamandrous at 10:32 AM on August 25, 2010


I have same issue as you.
I would want to know every detail.
I also sometimes read about movie plots before I watch the movie.

But I don't think I would look anything up because I would be afraid of getting caught SOMEhow....

I would have to say, I would probably share my experience with my signifigant other, though.
posted by KogeLiz at 10:38 AM on August 25, 2010


Nothing against keeping a diary though

Actually, some jurisdictions do not allow jurors to take notes (specifically, Pennsylvania and South Carolina). In some jurisdictions it's up to the judge, who may allow it in some cases and not in others. It could very well be that the asker is in a jurisdiction or situation that disallows note taking and that extends to writing things down out of court.
posted by jedicus at 10:40 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


A few years ago, I was a juror on a felony trial, and had exactly the same itch that you do. But I gritted my teeth and waited to scratch it.

At the end of the trial (actually, as soon as I got home after we'd rendered our verdict), I Googled the crap out of every person, place, and thing associated with the case. I learned to my surprise that one of the attorneys had a fairly serious drug conviction and had only recently been readmitted to practice following a suspension by the state bar.

I was suddenly very glad that I hadn't sleuthed this out earlier. Having that knowledge during the trial would definitely have colored my opinion regarding that attorney's competence and common sense, and that would have been unfair to that person, the opposing counsel, the defendant, and the process in general.
posted by AkzidenzGrotesk at 10:42 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't do this, please. I served on a jury 2 years ago, and the foreman kept making references to information not presented by the lawyers. Finally, someone spoke up in the jury room and told him to zip it. Certain mistrial if it had gotten out.

You're there to judge the case by the facts presented, not by whatever you read on Wikipedia. And unless you're on a celebrity trial, your wife can contain her curiosity until the verdict's in, I'm quite certain.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:47 AM on August 25, 2010


I was the second alternate juror (which means I had to sit through all the testimony, and hang out in the jury room, but when it came time to deliberate, me and the other alternates went somewhere else) for a Big Deal Hate Crime case (Big Deal because it was the first case to use new stricter hate crime laws. No one was in any way hurt.) in New York several years ago. We were instructed by the judge to not talk about the details of the case with anyone.

The second day of the trial, over lunch at a Chinese food place around the block, someone started talking, asking other people if they thought our guy should be found guilty, and people started talking back, discussing it. When it came time to deliberate, it was SO FRICKING HARD to get people to come to a group decision, because people had already decided stuff months earlier.

Talking with people about the case is unethical, but beyond that, it makes the trial last longer than it has to. The act of talking about it helps you formulate your opinion on the matter. Save the talking for an appropriate time, with the appropriate people. (That is, at the end of the trial, and with people who are also jurors.)
posted by 23skidoo at 10:56 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


It's not as cut-and-dried as denying the defendant a fair trial.

It's also at least possible that the defendant is being represented by a harried and overworked public defender and doesn't have the resources to mount an effective defense. It may be that the prosecution is allowed to bring in evidence from a supposedly infallible machine, and that the defense can't afford the very expensive expert witness that would be required to discuss its shortcomings. Or it might be the case that the judge will not allow the defense to present exculpatory evidence.

In such a case, looking things up and finding that the infallible machine is fallible or finding the exculpatory evidence would actually act in the service of justice, in the face of a prosecutorial and defense system that can sometimes be biased against it in favor of getting convictions.

I probably still wouldn't do it. But I would not feel remotely bad about looking things up to try to pick holes in the prosecution's case.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:57 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You already know what you should do. The only reason you're asking us is in the hope that we'll validate what you want to do. I'm very glad to see the consensus that you need to do what you know you should.

Let me just add another line of reasoning: You say you won't be prejudiced by anything you find online or anything that comes up in conversation about the case with your wife. How do you know? How many cases have you served as a juror on before? None, a couple, maybe as many as five, you don't say but I'm sure it's not many. Now, how many cases do you suppose the judge has been involved with? A hell of a lot more. So maybe, just maybe, he knows a little bit more about what might and might not prejudice a juror than you do.

Don't do it. No good, and a whole lot of bad, can come of it.
posted by cerebus19 at 11:10 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Please don't do this.

And ROU_Xeneophobe, the problem with "trying to pick holes in the prosecution's case" is that the information you get online isn't reliable. If you could find the information online, I don't care how harried the defense attorney is, he could have to. If it didn't make it into court, there is a reason, and you can't possibly know the reason. There's such a long long build up to any trial, with fights getting fought about all sorts of things. The newspapers can print whatever they want; they don't always print redactions, or additional information. They can quote witnesses who later turn out to be unreliable. They almost never print the whole story. And if you do it to poke holes in the case - for either side - and tell your fellow jurors (which you have to do to convince them, right?), they might tell the judge. And you'll be caught.

If you are found out, it'll be a mistrial, which means a lot more time and expense for everyone involved. This recently happened in Cincinnati where in a high profile murder case a juror conducted home experiments to determine whether one theory or another was plausible. The judge declared a mistrial. It's a mess.

Please don't do this. Especially don't ask her opinion. It will color your opinion; or she might try to convince you she's right. That's not evidence. Go out to dinner when it's over and ask her then.
posted by dpx.mfx at 11:15 AM on August 25, 2010 [4 favorites]


Nthing this an infinite number of times.
posted by thewestinggame at 11:16 AM on August 25, 2010


Boilerplate stuff in this age of unlimited information, I'm sure.

The rules in question are there to protect the rights of the defendant. This is not boilerplate, it is very important.

I am both a laywer and a former jury foreperson in a criminal trial. The laws and rules are set up so that only the evidence presented to you is used in your verdict. Frequently, newspapers, the internet, and the like are full of incomplete and just plain wrong information. Nor are you supposed to consider past wrongs by attorneys, defendants or victims. These are sources of bias and will not allow you to faithfully fufill your duties as a juror. You will be doing the legally, ethically and morally wrong thing.

In our system, guilt or innocence is based on whether the crime in question was committed by the person, nothing more, nothing less. To do otherwise is to corrupt and destroy the process that people have shed blood to protect.

I see nothing wrong with recanting the facts and stories of what was said in court with your wife. It is an open and public courtroom I assume. Funny stories are ok. I would not indicate to her which way, if any, you are leaning so far. Ask her not to give her opinion. Only discuss what was said in open court.

I see a lot wrong with it. It is legally, morally and ethically wrong. Your wife will likely engage you in conversation that may prejudice your decision in the case.

It's also at least possible that the defendant is being represented by a harried and overworked public defender and doesn't have the resources to mount an effective defense. It may be that the prosecution is allowed to bring in evidence from a supposedly infallible machine, and that the defense can't afford the very expensive expert witness that would be required to discuss its shortcomings. Or it might be the case that the judge will not allow the defense to present exculpatory evidence.

In such a case, looking things up and finding that the infallible machine is fallible or finding the exculpatory evidence would actually act in the service of justice, in the face of a prosecutorial and defense system that can sometimes be biased against it in favor of getting convictions.

This is utterly without basis. You have no facts to assume any part of anything. You do not know the skill of the other lawyer. You are to decide facts on the evidence. The answerer is advising you to violate a court order.

More importantly, you will be breaking an oath. You raised your hand. You swore that you would not do what you are now tempted to do. If you feel you cannot execute your oath faithfully, please ask to be recused from the jury. There are others who can execute that oath.

You hold a person's future in your hands. It may not seem important to you or seem minor, but important things will come with a wrong verdict. A verdict based on evidence you are not supposed to hear could harm in ways you cannot now foresee.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:18 AM on August 25, 2010 [11 favorites]


In such a case, looking things up and finding that the infallible machine is fallible or finding the exculpatory evidence would actually act in the service of justice

No, justice would not be served by such actions.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:19 AM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


If, during your research, you discover something that seriously influences or alters your perspective on the case, it's going to be really hard not to bring it up during deliberation, especially if your opinion differs from your fellow jurors'. This happened to my dad years ago when he was a juror in a traffic case: the other jurors were ready to decide one way, and he said, "no way, I drove by that intersection last night and it's not like that at all." Mistrial! (No contempt of court charges, though.)

It's so tempting, though, both to research and to talk about it. Write down what you want to say to your wife somewhere private so you don't forget to tell her all the interesting details - after the trial is over.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:22 AM on August 25, 2010


the problem with "trying to pick holes in the prosecution's case" is that the information you get online isn't reliable.

I agree that you shouldn't break the rules (and semi-appalled that you're finding it so difficult), but the above statement makes the assumption that the OP is a moron. Of course there is misinformation online, but finding reliable information really isn't that hard for anyone who's bothered to educate themselves.
posted by coolguymichael at 11:38 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Don't do this. It would be totally unfair to the defendant or the victim...or possibly both. Don't do it. If you do, be man enough to tell someone so you get booted.
posted by hal_c_on at 11:40 AM on August 25, 2010


In such a case, looking things up and finding that the infallible machine is fallible or finding the exculpatory evidence would actually act in the service of justice, in the face of a prosecutorial and defense system that can sometimes be biased against it in favor of getting convictions.

ROU_Xenophobe, there is a very good reason why there are rules of admissibility for evidence.

A juror is in no position to decide whether what turns up on google is or is not relevant and reliable. I don't care who the juror thinks he/she is, he/she isn't.

I agree that the justice system does not work perfectly. Nothing with human involvement ever does. But these "boilerplate" rules are safeguards which have been put in place precisely to combat the human error you speak of. We can't start bending and chucking out the rules some of the time because they don't work 100%, 100% of the time. There must be one system that we do our best to apply to everyone equally, or else we're in for a long ride down the slippery slope.
posted by keep it under cover at 11:52 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


I agree that you shouldn't break the rules (and semi-appalled that you're finding it so difficult), but the above statement makes the assumption that the OP is a moron. Of course there is misinformation online, but finding reliable information really isn't that hard for anyone who's bothered to educate themselves.

The above statement makes the assumption that people who are morons know that they are morons. There are a lot of morons. Do the math. So who is going to be the arbiter of who's enough of a moron that the rules must apply?
posted by keep it under cover at 11:55 AM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


Not saying OP is a moron, just that people are not going to objectively judge themselves as morons even if they are. And it would be reckless of us to condone or encourage people to make such a self-assessment in order to justify tossing aside important rules of law.
posted by keep it under cover at 12:03 PM on August 25, 2010


You have no facts to assume any part of anything. You do not know the skill of the other lawyer. You are to decide facts on the evidence. The answerer is advising you to violate a court order.

I'm not advising anyone to do anything. But my trust in the honesty and forthrightness of prosecutors is so minimal, if not negative, that I would not feel remotely bad about doing extracurricular work to try to pick holes in his case.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:11 PM on August 25, 2010


The world's a really fucked up place, and one of the few easy ways one can actually have a little bit of pride in one's own involvement in it is by abiding by the judge's rules and being a good citizen. So don't do it. And personally, I'd find it a little sexy that someone loved took this responsibility so seriously as to not tell me about it until later.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 12:15 PM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


I agree that you shouldn't break the rules (and semi-appalled that you're finding it so difficult), but the above statement makes the assumption that the OP is a moron. Of course there is misinformation online, but finding reliable information really isn't that hard for anyone who's bothered to educate themselves.

Well, what keep it under cover said. Not to mention, the people who are most educated about the case are likely to be the people involved.

But also, maybe "incomplete" is a better word than "not reliable." Think about your local newspaper: there's a big car accident today. The local paper (or news) interviews everyone on the scene. One guy says "I saw it happen! The guy was swerving all over the place! It smelled like beer! he had to be drunk!" That's what gets published.

Then months go by and nothing else gets published. At all. Because in the minute by minute media, that's how things work. But the lawyers figure out that the "witness" was high as a kite; or he later gave a depositions where he admitted he made it up to get on tv; or who knows what. 99 times out 100, that tidbit isn't going to make it into the papers. Jurors aren't going to get either piece of information from the lawyers, but if they google the names involved, they might get the article. Now the juror has to decide what to do with the information - and who knows what they will do. Maybe the juror decides that the witness must have been lying, but more likely he decides that one of the lawyers is "hiding" the information, or not doing a good enough job to find the witnesses. Those presumptions are bad, bad for everyone. They don't lead to justice being done. At all.

Don't get me wrong: I agree that the system is fallible. I doubt there's a lawyer or a judge anywhere who would disagree. But there are many people who work very hard to keep the system's integrity in place, and we can only do that when the jurors do what they're sworn to do. The system is flawed, but working outside the system, around the system, or in a way that indicates you think you're better than or smarter than the system is not going to add to justice.

Please, do what you've sworn to do. Uphold the oath you took. It's important to the defendant; it's important to the other jurors who are taking it seriously; it's important to the lawyers and the judge. Really. It is.

On Preview:
I'm not advising anyone to do anything. But my trust in the honesty and forthrightness of prosecutors is so minimal, if not negative, that I would not feel remotely bad about doing extracurricular work to try to pick holes in his case.

If that's truly the case, if you are ever called to jury duty, please, please say that when questioned. Because whichever side I'm on as a lawyer, I don't want you on my jury. There's nothing wrong with that; it's fine that you feel that way; but if it's true, you can't be an unbiased juror. Presumably the original poster agreed to be an unbiased juror, and took an oath to that effect.
posted by dpx.mfx at 12:18 PM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


But my trust in the honesty and forthrightness of prosecutors is so minimal, if not negative, that I would not feel remotely bad about doing extracurricular work to try to pick holes in his case.

What if your extracurricular work turned up information helpful to the prosecution? You'd suppress that information, too, along with whatever evidence the prosecutor presented in court? You'd never vote to convict, even if the evidence in Court and the additional "evidence" on Google indicated the defendant was guilty?
posted by hhc5 at 1:15 PM on August 25, 2010


Do not do this. I have been in your position and felt the temptation, and I didn't have a hard time resisting it because I knew it was like the temptation to cheat on one's spouse, easy to feel but important to resist. Please listen to the vast majority of the people here.

> But my trust in the honesty and forthrightness of prosecutors is so minimal, if not negative, that I would not feel remotely bad about doing extracurricular work to try to pick holes in his case.

With that attitude, I hope you never get on a jury.
posted by languagehat at 1:21 PM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


Do you not keep any confidences from your wife? Stuff from work? Mr. M. works in a law office and hears /sees funny stuff all day. It would be a violation of ethics to share that stuff with me, so he doesn't. Guess what? Our relationship is in jim-dandy shape despite him not 'sharing' that with me. It doesn't mean he doesn't value my counsel or that our relationship is in trouble because we don't have 100% honesty & tell each other absolutely everything.

If you can't execute your duty as a juror, then ask to be removed. There is absolutely no justification in you doing either thing. Being a juror is not simple, but it's a fairly simple thing to just do what you said you would do.

They have alternate jurors. Get yourself removed because you don't feel that you can execute the responsibility they gave you.
posted by micawber at 1:22 PM on August 25, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm not advising anyone to do anything. But my trust in the honesty and forthrightness of prosecutors is so minimal, if not negative, that I would not feel remotely bad about doing extracurricular work to try to pick holes in his case.

Please, OP, do not even read any of this crap. Literally, it may be affecting you right now. Follow what the judge says and what you swore to do.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:26 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


You can tell your wife this stuff AFTER the trial is over. It's the law. She'll understand if she has to wait a few days for the funny stories.

I think you'd get in trouble if you blabbed any of the information you found online to your fellow jurors too, btw.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:36 PM on August 25, 2010


[few comments removed - do not turn this into a stupid fight. Answer the OPs question and then please move on.]
posted by jessamyn at 1:37 PM on August 25, 2010


Having served as a Juror, I followed the rules, and did not read up on the case on my own. Even still, other people figured out what case I was on (Boss, Landlord) and still tried to influence me with their opinions, even though they were not present in the courtroom, and I didn't bring the subject up. Don't let anyone do it.

After the case (and sometimes still to this day, 4 years later), I google up details about the case. If I knew then what I know now, the trial would have been VERY different. In other words - don't do it.
posted by GJSchaller at 1:58 PM on August 25, 2010


Don't do it.

I've served on juries in the past and googled things after the fact and found things that would have definitely clouded my thinking on the case at hand.

Do what you swore to do.
posted by jjb at 2:08 PM on August 25, 2010


I'm having a hard time resisting the urge to see if this defense has been previously used.

Yeah, no.

Learning that this machine's asserted failure mode convinced a jury three times and didn't convince a jury six times doesn't tell you anything about how often, if ever, it actually hits that failure mode, much less whether it actually failed like that this time.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:10 PM on August 25, 2010


To answer your title question ("Do jurists really not talk about cases with their loved ones?"):

Yes. Jurors really do follow the judge's instructions and avoid talking about cases with their loved ones (and other jurors and anyone else).

I have had the privilege of serving on three juries. I always waited until after the verdict had been delivered before talking about the case. (And a close friend was part of the jury pool on a murder trial. He ended up not being chosen to serve, but he waited until he had been released from service before talking about the case or doing any research.)

All you need here is patience. As soon as you and your co-jurors deliver your verdict, you can talk and research all you want.

Do the right thing, and wait.
posted by kristi at 2:20 PM on August 25, 2010


I haven't read all the replies. I looked at enough to be proud that AskMetaFilter is one of my most trusted sources.

It also made me proud of our "innocent until proven guilty" basis for our judicial system.

My greatest fear, if a defendant, would be an incompetent or disengaged counsel.

Even a confidante who is a Supreme isn't THERE, hearing all the evidence. Of course they, of all people, would refuse to be a confidante.

Our system ain't perfect, but it can only be the best it can be if the rule of law is upheld.

Good discussion. Made me think.
posted by private_idaho at 2:29 PM on August 25, 2010 [2 favorites]


Just an anecdote: yes, people really do refrain from telling loved ones about trials until after.
My mom was on a jury in a high-profile murder case that went for three weeks. She wouldn't even tell us what case she was hearing, wouldn't tell us it was a murder case, wouldn't tell us a thing about it beyond that she was on a jury. There were all kinds of salacious and juicy and crazy things that she didn't tell us until afterward. And afterward, we enjoyed her stories, and asked "how did you keep quiet about all this?!" and she just said "well, I swore I would keep quiet about it, so I did." She also said everyone on her jury -- who were from all different backgrounds -- took it very seriously, and she believed that everyone had kept quiet and avoided any outside research/reading.
posted by LobsterMitten at 3:18 PM on August 25, 2010


It's your duty not to.
posted by rhizome at 3:34 PM on August 25, 2010


Hey! Cool! I'm on a jury right now too! I'm afraid I can't talk to you about it. Or my girlfriend. Or anyone. Until the case is over.

That said, it is damn hard not to go to the places named or look up the people mentioned. I just have to force it out of my mind when I get home. Video games help. A lot.
posted by clockbound at 3:43 PM on August 25, 2010


never insignificant to the aggrieved party especially if someone's way of supporting themselves is at stake. wait.
posted by chinabound at 8:29 PM on August 25, 2010


If you must, tell your wife about the personalities of the jurors and the funny lawyers, just don't share any facts about the case whatsoever.

Your role isn't to investigate what may have happened, it is to assess the case in a very specific way according to specific rules. Uphold the integrity of the process on principle. It's the same process that is intended to provide you with a fair trial, should the need arise.
posted by desuetude at 9:42 PM on August 25, 2010


I sure understand how you feel, anonymous. I was on a jury many years ago. It was a murder case. I wanted very much to discuss it with my husband...as a matter of fact, toward the end I felt very bizarrely pent up over not being able to talk at all about it. I almost felt a little crazy having to keep it all in. It was one of the most strange experiences of my life--because I shared everything with my husband. However, I felt "duty bound" to stick with the emphatic rules of being a juror. It is a deep privilege to be a juror. I hope everyone has convinced you to do the right thing and stay completely mum. You have the rest of your life to tell everyone all about it when it is over. The trial is a very short amount of time in comparison. Be the best "peer" possible by doing everything letter perfect to the instructions.

I'm proud of you for not shirking jury duty. Many people do.
posted by naplesyellow at 11:30 PM on August 25, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh I meant to write I shared everything with my husband "as a rule", but I did not tell h one single thing about that trial until the verdict was in. After we found the defendant guilty, I gave h every detail. If you are allowed to take notes it will be enlightening to read them back later to your Mrs.
posted by naplesyellow at 11:36 PM on August 25, 2010


What if you were on trial? Would you want jurors deciding your fate based on evidence presented in court, or Wikipedia, Google and their spouses?
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:16 AM on August 27, 2010


The jury that I served on had a lengthy extension of deliberations because one of the jurors saw the defendant outside the court being jocular with one of his witnesses. The defendant and the witness had previously been friends, and their friendship had broken up because of the drunken assholery of the defendant (which was part of his alibi). The juror felt that the spat had never happened, and the witness was merely covering for a friend. Likewise, this juror and several others, were upset at the vague recollection of details, assuming that the colluding witness and defendant were simply lying (under the theory that lies are dumber than the truth).

But after the trial, in discussions with the defense lawyer and the prosecutor's bosses (for some reason, the actual prosecutor couldn't be there), we found out that the actual charges for the incident hadn't been filed for nearly three months after it occurred, and that the witness and the defendant hadn't spoken before the trial, with the lawyer only contacting the witness a couple months prior (it had been almost a year since the alleged drunk driving), the behavior suddenly made a lot more sense and the idea that they could have been colluding seemed a lot more far-fetched. That the defendant hadn't been immediately arrested or charged also cleared up a lot of the odd answers that he gave regarding his interactions with the police, as well as the cross-examination of the alibi witness, where the prosecutor harped on how he didn't remember how he parked his car by implying that this was all a big enough deal to remember it—he might have, if his former friend had been charged right away. But without that, do you remember how you parked eighteen months ago?

Saying that the juror in our case who talked about the witness and the defendant being friendly outside the court violated her oath feels overly strong, but there are good reasons why even seemingly damning evidence (or innocuous interactions) aren't allowed in deliberations unless they've been vetted by the court.
posted by klangklangston at 8:32 AM on August 27, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do this right now: go to your wife and say, "listen, no matter how much I seem to want to talk about it, don't engage me in a conversation about it. Really. I mean it. I'm going to want to talk about it, but I really really really really don't want to talk about it."

This is what I did with my family when I was on a murder trial. I was such a stickler that I wouldn't even tell them what trial I was on, but that it would be in the papers (it was a high-profile case in my hometown). They obviously figured it out right away. I asked them to save but hide the papers from me, and not to mention it at all until it was over. Of course, after the trial was over, I read stuff in the paper that (had we known) would have made the verdict the exact opposite than what it totally was, that was found to be false a couple years later. So I'm glad I was a stickler.
posted by AlisonM at 6:29 PM on August 27, 2010


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