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Our Addiction To Social Media and its Effect on the Jury Selection Process

Posted on Friday, September 19th, 2014 at 5:34 pm    

In an attempt to help individuals recognize whether or not they have a drinking problem, the question, “What’s the first thing you reach for in the morning and the last thing you put down at night” is often posed. Apparently, if your answer is some kind of an alcoholic beverage it indicates you might have a drinking problem.

But what if your answer is your smartphone? And what if the reason you immediately reach for your smartphone is because you are checking the status of your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest accounts? Could this also indicate you have a problem? And why should litigators care?

The reason litigators pay attention to the amount of time prospective jurors spend online is because heavy social networking users are likely to be more distracted, have shorter attention spans, and be more interested in ending their jury duty than they are in weighing the opposing arguments of the case.

Additionally, court proceedings have been interrupted due to jurors conducting their own research online, including during jury duty about the very case for which they sit in judgment. To further complicate the process, the risk of jurors posting details of the case online is also increased, which simply adds to the complexities litigators need to consider when selecting an impartial jury.

The ease of access to social media has made it virtually impossible for litigators to keep at bay public opinion in high profile cases, bringing into question whether the facts of the case are being evaluated objectively. And if someone is predisposed to spend a significant amount of their time on social networking sites, the odds of them abstaining from accepting the knee-jerk reaction of the public is unlikely. Rarely do individuals choose to swim upstream.

Therefore, not only is it important to consider what a person is like online when selecting potential jurors, but it is likewise important to consider the effect social media is having on them and what it might mean to your case.