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Limiting the Use of Social Media by Jurors

Katherine Kirk Posted in Rule One

The issue of social media and juries is not a new one, but a recent study sought to identify ways courts can minimize juror-use of social media and better protect the long-standing institution of a fair and impartial jury. The study, performed by U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve of the Northern District of Illinois and Judge Charles Burns in the criminal division of Cook County, Ill., Circuit Court, surveyed hundreds of jurors to determine whether they felt tempted to use social media during the trial and deliberation process.

Based upon feedback from 583 jurors over 2 years, the authors recommend that judges give a specific opening instruction against the use of social media by the jury in each case. The study showed that of the 583 jurors given the opening instruction, only 47 felt tempted to use social media throughout the trial and deliberation, and 45 reported resisting the temptation—the remaining two jurors did not discuss whether they used social media. Though informal, the study suggests that when instructed to avoid social media by the judge early in the process, jurors abide by the rules.

This study is a follow-up to an earlier study from 2012, “Ensuring an Impartial Jury in the Age of Social Media,” by Hon. Amy St. Eve and Michael Zuckerman.

Katherine Kirk is a third-year law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and contributes to IAALS Online. Please direct inquiries about this post to iaals@du.edu.