Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Judge Herbert Dixon Shares His Juror "Internet Charge"

The "Googling Juror" is a continual challenge to trial judges.  Here is how one addresses the issue in plain language.


Our good friend Judge Herbert Dixon of the District of Columbia Superior Court and ABA Judges Journal Technology columnist shares his jury charge regarding use of the Internet while serving.

Judge Dixon’s Discussion Points Re: Jurors and the Internet

Until you have been discharged from service in this case:
  • You may not perform any investigation, research or experiment of any kind on your own, either individually or as a group about this case; 
  • Do not consult any dictionaries for the meaning of words or any encyclopedias for general information on the subjects of this trial; 
  • Do not look up anything on the Internet concerning this case or any of the people involved, including the defendant, the witnesses, the lawyers, and the judge;
  • Do not go to the scene where any of the events that are the subject of this trial are alleged to have taken place or use Internet maps or Google Earth or any other program or device to search for or view any place discussed during the case;  and
Until you are discharged:

You must not have any discussions about this case or make any entry on Facebook, Myspace, Linkedin, YouTube or other Internet Social Media site, and that includes all other forms of oral, written and electronic communications, including Twitter, e-mail, blogging and texting.

Please understand that I am giving these directions as a part of my responsibility for three essential reasons: First, to ensure fairness to all parties in this case.  That fairness could be compromised if you violate these instructions.  Second, a violation of these instructions could jeopardize the results of this trial.  Third, and equally important and the first two reasons, any juror violating this instruction could get himself or herself into trouble.

Judge Dixon also wrote a longer article on the issue that was published in the Judges Journal Winter, 2010 (Volume 49 Number 1) available in PDF by clicking here.

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