Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Market for information

Mostly we think it is good for information to be freely available, but one place where we often do not is in the adversarial system of trial by jury. The rules of evidence permit judges to decide what evidence is admissable, and what is not. I have served on juries in which we were instructed not to read news accounts of the trial we were part of. Sometimes juries are sequestered, so that they cannot have much contact with the outside world. That has all gotten a little harder to enforce, now that everyone has Google in their pocket: Mistrial by iPhone: Juries’ Web Research Upends Trials .

"Last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, directly violating the judge’s instructions and centuries of legal rules. But when the judge questioned the rest of the jury, he got an even bigger shock.
Eight other jurors had been doing the same thing. The federal judge, William J. Zloch, had no choice but to declare a mistrial, wasting eight weeks of work by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers."

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