Ordinarily I wouldn’t publish a link to a New York Times article because doing so puts The Monkey Cage in the position of a very small dog wagging a very large tail. But this piece is just so darned interesting, points to such a potentially serious problem, and ties in so directly with Melissa’s post yesterday that I couldn’t resist.
Judges could simply order BlackBerrys, iPhones, and even plain old cellphones to be confiscated while a trial is in session. But many trials go on for months, and we’ve all gotten so dependent on these devices that jurors simply wouldn’t stand for having them taken away — and judges wouldn’t dare impose such restrictions in any event. Less drastically, judges could broaden their current instructions to jurors not to discuss a case or to consider any information not presented in the trial itself. However, relying on juror self-restraint strikes me as extremely unlikely to resolve this problem. If the tendency of jurors to go Googling for trial-relatated information is anywhere near as widespread as the Times piece suggests, then some serious rethinking is going to be required about what constitutes a fair hearing by an unbiased jury that decides on the basis of information presented at trial.
Do this strike you, as it does me, as a real problem? And what possible solutions come to mind that I’m missing?
UPDATE: Melissa just now posted on this very same Times article. Great minds and all that…