Google It, Unless You’re a Juror

The Googling phenomenon is hard to escape; if you’re not sure what a word means, you Google it. If you want to find out who someone is, you Google him/her. When called to serve jury duty, some may find it second nature to look up facts or definitions in relation to the trial they are serving on. In most cases, if anyone on the jury is found to be Googling, a mistrial may be declared and the case could be tossed.

This is not uncommon. In 2009, a mistrial was declared in a largefederal drug trial in Florida when nine jurors admitted to doing research on the Internet. The mistrial resulted in eight weeks of hard work by criminal defense attorneys and federal prosecutors being thrown out.

An article from The Star referenced a first-degree murder trial in Maryland where the jury Googled and discovered two articles referencing body temperature after death. After refusing to declare a mistrial, the murder conviction was later tossed out by an appeals court.

As it may come as second nature to tweet, Google, blog, post or text anything these days, leaving this habit on the steps outside of the courtroom is a good idea. Last week, California Governor Jerry Brownsigned a law making it a misdemeanor for a juror to willfully disobey “a court admonishment related to the prohibition on any form of communication or research about the case, including all forms of electronic or wireless communication or research.”

Over the years, many trials have resulted in what is being called a “Mistrial by Google”, wasting time and money for all parties involved. With California’s recent action, it may not be long until other states adopt similar laws. So next time you are sitting on a jury, think twice before you let your urge to Google takeover, as it could not only result in a mistrial, but could land you in a jail cell as well.

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