E-Jurors: A View from the Bench (Forthcoming in the Cleveland State Law Review)
By Judge Antoinette Plogstedt
Abstract: Electronic jurors pose new twists to an old problem. With emerging technology in mobile devices, social media, and internet research, juror misconduct exists in new shapes and forms. Many jurisdictions have made attempts to curb electronic misconduct by modifying standard jury instructions and confiscating juror cell phones. Some judges have implemented jury instructions which remind jurors to refrain from communicating about the case and conducting on-line research. However, their efforts fall short. In previous literature, practitioners, students and a few scholars have offered suggestions on modifying jury instructions to better inform jurors of prohibited misconduct. To address the overall electronic juror problem, this Article explains, from a unique judicial vantage point, that the jury system should be improved by better educating judges on emerging technology and social trends; improving jury instructions to specify changing mobile devices, social media sites and internet research with clear reasons for the prohibited conduct; encouraging attorneys to address social media and juror internet use; and engaging active jurors. This Article’s most critical recommendations include encouraging juror questioning of witnesses and adopting the Author’s specific proposed jury instruction, which identifies a detailed and comprehensive list of social media sites and internet search tools, along with compelling reasons for refraining from misconduct.