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back to article Jurors start stretch in the cooler for Facebooking, Googling the accused

Two men have been jailed for two months for breaking strict rules against using Facebook and Google while serving on a jury. The pair were found to be in contempt of court by senior judges in London yesterday. One of the jailed men posted a damning message on the social network about a child sex abuse defendant mid-trial; the …

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Whilst I think these two jurors were dumb, I also feel that the justice system needs to play catch up with the digital age. Maybe the jurors shouldn't watch TV or listen to the radio, and at all cost they should avoid the daily mail.

Seriously though, if you put an internet connected device into everyone's hand then human nature will do the rest.

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Being a juror is a serious business. You're asked to decide on something that could lead to someone doing a lot of time - or that an innocent person be punished and the guilty go free.

Don't talk about the case (on or offline), don't Google the defendants, etc. These rules might seem harsh but they're clear enough. Don't piss about.

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I must say I found it pretty clear. Although it was a few years ago, before Facebook, it was clearly stated that you must not discuss the case with anyone and must not research it outside the courtroom.

These two were idiots. Unfortunately, you don't have to show a minimum level of intelligence to be a juror.

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Perhaps you missed the bit in the article that makes it all clear:

"A jury must only weigh up evidence that has been deemed admissible in court, rather than any old information they may stumble across by researching a case outside of court."

This has always been true and I imagine judges have always issued instructions to jurors to this effect. The internet changes nothing.

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WTF?

The problem with allowing jurors to 'catch up with the digital age' is that you will allow them to potentially base their decisions on absurdities written by a lunatic in a blog. That said, I suggest this happens all the time but most people aren't so stupid as to brag about it on Facebook.

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Anonymous Coward

"I must say I found it pretty clear. Although it was a few years ago, before Facebook, it was clearly stated that you must not discuss the case with anyone and must not research it outside the courtroom."

So exactly the same as after facebook then?

This sounds like another one of those things where there's already enough law and guideline out there to cover it but some idiot wants some more because it happened ON THE INTERNET.

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A juror is not a detective

'nuff said.

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FAIL

Wow - Seems you downvoters missed

Whilst I think these two jurors were dumb,

AND

Seriously though, if you put an internet connected device into everyone's hand then human nature will do the rest.

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Re: Wow - Seems you downvoters missed

Human nature would also have you attempting to mate with as many females as possible (regardless of their feelings on the matter,) and bludgeoning anybody who annoyed you as a display of dominance. Try either in our society and you'll end up doing time.

Human nature is not an excuse to ignore the rules.

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Anonymous Coward

Oh Please

Are you serious? Banning someone from Googling the accused is no more ludicrous than checking for their name(s) in the tabloids, yet how many people did that before the internet came out?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh Please

Looks like we have 3 commentards in denial and counting..

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Re: Wow - Seems you downvoters missed

"Human nature would also have you attempting to mate with as many females as possible (regardless of their feelings on the matter,) "

Did you just accuse all men of being potential rapists?

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Re: Oh Please

Are you serious?

Yup. It's dead serious. I've served on a jury. You can find someone guilty and they can get sent to prison for years. If you aren't taking that seriously then you're both a total idiot and a liability to the rest of society.

Banning someone from Googling the accused is no more ludicrous than checking for their name(s) in the tabloids, yet how many people did that before the internet came out?

Indeed, the above mentioned idiots and liabilities to society did used to check stuff out in the papers. Despite the fact that they are told not to. And now they search online, despite the fact they are told not to. Although online is worse, because at least the UK papers have heard (and sometimes comply with) sub judice rules. Also, the papers may not always be accurate, but they're doing a good deal more fact-checking than random bloggers.

There are rules of evidence for a reason, in order to give people a chance of a fair trial. You, as a juror, have to accept that you only get limited information. You usually don't get previous convictions for example. You have a role to play in a complex system, and it's your job to do it fucking properly. So some poor sod doesn't end up locked up when they shouldn't be. Also so the victims don't have to come back to court and go through traumatic testimony a second time, because you've buggered up the very expensive and complicated trial, and it has to be done all over again.

It's not rocket science. You're told what you have to do, and it's your job to do it, as best you can. To go all high-fallutin, its your duty to society. One of the things that makes a decent society, is a fair (ish) legal system. And while no system is perfect, at least juries allow ordinary people to be involved and hopefully keep things sane. With legal checks-and-balances to try and avoid lynch-mob-rule. The only way to ensure the system doesn't turn into a totally self-interested closed shop is to grab ordinary bods off the street, and get them to serve on juries. Which is inconvenient, but necessary. Society would be worse without it. And in my experience, you can be forced to serve on a jury, but they're mostly pretty easy-going about letting you avoid it, if you really want to.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh Please

"Are you serious? Banning someone from Googling the accused is no more ludicrous than checking for their name(s) in the tabloids, yet how many people did that before the internet came out?"

I'd count both of those as 'researching the case outside of the courtroom'.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Oh Please

Although online is worse, because at least the UK papers have heard (and sometimes comply with) sub judice rules. Also, the papers may not always be accurate, but they're doing a good deal more fact-checking than random bloggers.

Not always the case, there are papers that willfully publish what they want under the "Freedom of the press" statute and the papers in question will exasperate the truth, they always do!

I also don't like the way you demonize bloggers as worse than the papers, sure they probably don't do the fact checking, but the tabloids are not known for doing that either. If you think they are, then you're the one that's delusional. As for bloggers, they are also not likely to exasperate the stories, either. There's no monetary motive for most of them unlike with the tabloids.

Bloggers =1

Tabloids = 0

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Re: Wow - Seems you downvoters missed

""Human nature would also have you attempting to mate with as many females as possible (regardless of their feelings on the matter,) "

Did you just accuse all men of being potential rapists?"

I suppose it might have seemed that way if you're too stupid to understand the difference between a socially conditioned behaviour and a biological imperative.

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Stop

Re: Wow - Seems you downvoters missed

So you do think all men are potential rapists!

Whatever you think is driving them is irrelevant!

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Re: Wow - Seems you downvoters missed

No.

I think the human animal has biological drives which are far too basic to take into consideration complex concepts such as consent. A man is more than just an animal though, he has socially learned behaviours, he has rational thought, freewill and empathy.

If you want to get upset over the fact that you have a genetically programmed drive to pass on your genes then that is your business, but stop putting words into my mouth. I do not believe that all men are slaves to their biology.

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Re: Wow - Seems you downvoters missed

Only a troll would expect any responder to get upset.

Grow up.

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How long before the twitter trends?

They've stitched me up #inthedock

Looks guilty to me #1of12

Yawn, when's lunch? #foremanofthejury

The judge is asleep again #thedefenselawyer

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Having been on a jury before, it was drilled into you many times that you should never ever do research or even talk about what happens during a case. I was left with no doubt about what would happen if I ignored these instructions. What a couple of morons...

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Worrying

The most worrying part is that someone with that little common sense to think they could get away with posting something like that on Facebook would get to decide your fate in court.

As for the fraud case, I have sympathy as fraud trials tend to go on and on with reams of paperwork to get through and plenty of tax/accounting/legal arguments. In fairness most jurors often do not understand the complexities of the cases and I've frequently thought them to be specialised and as such should be dealt with differently, whether that be with more selective juries or panels of judges etc.

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Holmes

Re: Worrying

Wasn't that the concern about the Apple/Samsung trial as well, that the issues around patent law were so complex that only a patent expert could understand them? Ultimately ended up with 12 average Joe & Janes (including a total dipshit of a foreman) who between them didn't have a clue about the legalities and making decisions they couldn't begin to comprehend.

Of course there the only issue was money - but extend the same general crapness and lack of specialised knowledge to a trial involving real people who end up doing real time, and it's an order of magnitude more serious.

Sherlock, 'cos you'd need to be to understand your average fraud case.

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Re: Worrying

Actually the concern was that, rather than listen to the judge's explanation of how things works, they went off and and listened to someone who had a couple of patents of his own.

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Re: Worrying

Not worried.

This is why you are tried by twelve jurors, not one or three. You'd have to be extremely unlucky to have ten out of twelve such idiots on your jury. Fewer means, at worst, a mis-trial. More likely, one good (wo)man and true on your jury will denounce the idiot(s) to the judge as soon as (s)he becomes aware of them.

There's a case to be made for ensuring that a minority of a jury are technically competent (for example, accountants in fraud trials; scientists where forensic evidence is complex). Maybe 4/12 of them. Never a majority, let alone all. Selecting such a group is likely to select for correlated prejudice.

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Re: Worrying

"The most worrying part is that someone with that little common sense to think they could get away with posting something like that on Facebook"

But he was only posting it to his closest friends. All 400 of them.

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It gets better/worse

"... Davey denied the Facebook account was his, or that he even had a Facebook account,..."

" ...Davey eventually apologised for the comment ..."

Perjury as well. Another serious criminal offence.

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Pint

Re: It gets better/worse

Yep. Sounds like we have ourselves a little politician here.

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Juries

The origin of the jury goes back quite a long time; originally, they were the people that knew the plaintiffs / defendants and in theory would know the background to the case. It was assumed that these people would be the best ones to provide the judge with the details needed to decide a claim.

However, over the years, that has changed and now the jury is meant to be an impartial group selected from the public, that can hear the evidence and make a decision based upon that alone. In many cases, because they are lay people, they will not be aware of the minutiae of the law; which is why the court can provide them with guidance or even direct them to pay specific attention to / ignore certain information.

However, it appears that far too many of the individuals selected to carry out jury duty these days, don't have the basic common sense required to perform this civic function. (OK, many of them are as thick as s***.) There's been an argument that perhaps we need to have a group of people that would be "professional" jurists from which a jury of 10 or 12 would be selected. The idea is then that they might be better equipped to handle the specific requirements of the function.

I'd previously not been too happy about the concept; I can see too many ways in which it could be abused. But perhaps it is time to rethink this; quite simply, there are just too many cases where the individual jurists have ignored the information provided, or have been influenced by something they had read / seen (especially some the court room dramas whcih are usally so bloody inaccurate, they make the legal profession scream in frustration).

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Meh

Re: Juries

"there are just too many cases where the individual jurists have ignored the information provided"

Really? are you sure? are you making assumptions on the fact that a few cases are reported in the papers whilst thousands of other trial go without a hitch.

Dont make the mistake of assuming that just coz bad news is the bit that is published thats all the news there is.

Thats how we get knee jerk politco's making laws for edge cases.

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Re: The origin of the jury

"originally, they were the people that knew the plaintiffs / defendants and in theory would know the background to the case"

That sounds very much like "knowing a lot of gossip that wouldn't be admissable". Surely it was the *witnesses* that the juries were supposed to know (and judge the credibility thereof).

But, yes, all that is long past. (Would knowing one of the witnesses be enough to disqualify you these days?) Juries, however, remain and amongst the reasons cited are their occasional tendency to deliver an unexpectedly verdict. On further questioning, the supporter of the jury system usually seems to be thinking of cases where the jury put equity before the law rather than following it.

On the other hand, it may be a little like democracy -- the worst system except for all the others. For "safety-critical" systems, the most important design criterion is not "How well can this system perform on a good day?" but "How badly wrong can this system go on a bad day?". Amongst systems of government, democracy wins convincingly on the second point.

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Headmaster

Re: The origin of the jury

Having served on a jury... it sucks.

I've wondered from time to time if "a jury of your peers" should be a little more closely defined than "random citizens (insert local restrictions on jury selection here)". It would make convictions more meaningful, at least.

For one possibility:

If taken to a certain point - similar social class, similar professions, but still 'either unaware of the media presentation or able to set that aside and decide impartially': if the prosecution can convince, not 12 people picked for either susceptibility to sob stories or "professions we've decided are good at working based on the evidence we let you see", but 12 people who would be inclined to protect 'one of their own' that you're guilty and deserve punishment...

Not advocating any changes, more speculating on possibilities.

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Re: Juries

> whilst thousands of other trial go without a hitch.

You mean where the white middle-aged middle-class jury members decide the black teenagers must have done it

Of course it may be that juries are perfectly unbiased and the reason the conviction rate is so much higher for young black defendants - is that the cases the police bring against those who look like members of the jury are all obvious fit-ups

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Re: Juries

@YAAC

Or maybe the problem is that, because of the varying ability of crime victims to pressure/bully police/CPS/law enforcement to prosecute/convict the person responsible (which is frequently interpreted as "nearest young man from a non-white ethnic minority without an ironclad alibi"), higher focus is put on securing successful convictions and prosecutions in cases that "look easy" (ie social conditions make it more likely that the defendant might be a criminal and less likely that he/she will have recourse to reverse a miscarriage of justice, plus the aforementioned social conditions mean that they are more likely to mistrust the law and its representatives anyway) in an effort to hit targets/performance metrics which are at least partly structured to allow politicians/senior officers at the Met to claim that they are "doing something" about crime.

Part of the reason the CPS come across as so schizophrenically inconsistent is that they are given performance targets based on cases taken to trial, which completely disregards the reality of police and legal work (ie the number of promising cases where due to a lack of a key witness/piece of evidence the trial can't proceed, thus making all the work put into said case a black mark against performance evaluation).

To put it another way, there's plenty of blame to go round for the current situation and a lot of it should go to those who decided on some not-particularly-good management structures for the folks who decide who to try and prosecute. (It doesn't help that the people they appoint aren't always the best of the bunch, or that the laws they have to enforce are frequently full-on Pants-On-Head Mental...)

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Re: Juries

True, but the "probabilty jury will convict" is a major part of the CPS calculus irrespective of the evidence.

If that means let the rich white fraudster go because the trial will be long and expensive and the jury don't like paying tax so it's unlikely we will get a conviction, while a black teenager on a drug charge is a guaranteed win - then you may as well replace the whole criminal justice system with a phone in vote on the Daily Mail

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Anonymous Coward

Re: The origin of the jury

"similar social class, similar professions"

I'm sure the banksters would love to have a jury populated by their own, in the extraordinarily unlikely event that any of the financial terrorists are brought up for justice.

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Re: The origin of the jury

A couple of hundred years ago you had to be a freeholder to be a jurist. (ie; owned your own property).

Resurrecting this rule would solve the problem without much of a problem and the Land Registry has a ready made database of people. Alternately, you use "taxpayers" defined as people who pay 1 penny more in tax than they receive in welfare payments. Her Majesties Revenue and Customs should hold a list of these people as well, so not much of a problem there.

Neither of which are going to happen though.

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Stop

Re: The origin of the jury

@Peter2

Are you kidding me - only landovers or people not claiming net benefit from the state are fit and proper members of society to judge whether someone is innocent or guilty of a crime? - what kind of Daily Mail hell do you view the world from?

A huge proportion of students, single parents, the disabled and the retired all fail to meet your criteria as worthy of sufficient qualification. Do you really think most of these people are characters from Shameless?

As for the point about landowners, maybe you should leave the 19th century. Many people, myself included, rent and I have been in full time employment for over a decade, I earn more than the average wage but happen to live in an area with very high house prices and very little building. It is, shock horror, a choice to rent. But obviously, I and a large number of people in their twenties and thirties couldn't possibly sit on a jury under your vision.

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Anonymous Coward

Once again proving that doing so called 'jury service' (read: enforced slavery) is only for those too stupid to avoid it.

The whole prupose is stupid, no one on the jury was at the scene of the crime so how can anyone know what is true or not & the so called 'science' of forensics only goes so far, after all look how much DNA people shed each minute of their lives, finding DNA at the scene of the crime is *not* a smoking gun like ID-10-Ts who watch CSI think.

Time we found a new way to deal with stuff like this, one that doesnt require random enforced slavery or the hope that those selected havea full understanding of the law

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Facepalm

...no one on the jury was at the scene of the crime...

No, of course not. Such a person would be called a witness and be testifying from the witness box.

Jurors sit in the jury box and they get to decide if the witness is telling porkies or not, in which task they may sometimes be assisted by direction from the judge (bloke with a wig with his own desk).

Seems that the rest of what you said is of a similar calibre. Are you a Sun journalist?

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Anonymous Coward

Jurors sit in the jury box and they get to decide if the witness is telling porkies or not

And without knowing the truth by having being there at the commision of the crime how can you tell who is telling the truth ?

Lawyers lie / experts lie & evidence only takes you so far.

Yes some cases are quite simple and clear cut, however a good portion arent.

Understanding is a three edged sword, your side, their side & the truth

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Facepalm

AC's comments are why we should have the basic legal framework of this country taught in schools (perhaps it is and my school was an exception?).

I served on a jury recently and made no effort at all to get out of it as I was interested in it and wouldn't dream of "getting out of it". Enforced slavery? Yes, but then so are taxes and I'm sure you pay them.

"And without knowing the truth by having being there at the commision of the crime how can you tell who is telling the truth ?"

That is the entire point of a jury trial, or do you think we shouldn't bother with legal proceedings at all because nothing in this world is provable to 100% reliability? "These 3 witnesses to the murder could all have been sharing the same hallucination m'lud - it can't be proven they weren't"...

If you ever get the chance to serve on a jury trial then I suggest you take it, you will learn a lot. The jury's decision is not based on anything other than if the evidence presented has made them "sure" that the defendant committed the crime, and if 12 people are sure that's as good a standard as we are going to get in an imperfect world.

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Anonymous Coward

"And without knowing the truth by having being there at the commision of the crime how can you tell who is telling the truth ?"

It is your jobs as a jury to come to a finding of fact as to who is telling what truth based on the evidence produced at the trial.

I was on a jury a few years ago, and as we went to the deliberation room I heard some of the other juries saying along the lines of: well, yeah, he's guilty. In my day job I'd had training and experience of examining and balancing evidence and coming to findings of fact, and then using those finding to come to decisions. I manipulated the other members to select me as foreman so I could make them follow a clear process of examination. It turned out, through using the evidence provided, that the accused hadn't done two of the charges, so I made it clear that we couldn't convict on those two.

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Anonymous Coward

I am sure all those imprisoned unjustly and falsely are so happy with you all for having such faith in the justice system, if only so many of them hadnt either died in prison or had their lives utterly ruined & robbed from them by it.

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"I am sure all those imprisoned unjustly and falsely are so happy with you all for having such faith in the justice system, if only so many of them hadnt either died in prison or had their lives utterly ruined & robbed from them by it."

Have you a viable alternative that doesn't allow huge amounts of criminals to get off scott free?

Your point is an argument against the death penalty (an argument I would agree with), not against juries.

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Anonymous Coward

Lack of a better alternative, does not mean that the established system is either fair or fit for purpose.

It is an argument against failures of the justice system, rather a lot of which are caused by juries.

Would you be happy to be locked up for 40 years for a crime you didnt commit only to be relased with 'oh we are awfully sorry mate, heres you life back except no one will employ you or deal with you because you were in prison & well no smoke without fire in our society mate'

Of course you wouldnt, so please dont pretend anyone else should be, unless you know the truth and the full truth of a situation you cannot in good faith decide someone elses fate, the arrogance of such a supposition is mind boggling

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re: enforced slavery

And what if it was a fraud trial that might take 3, or 5 or 10 years?

And comes down to 10,000 different cases of whether a withholding under section 5678987654 constituted a legitimate payment under section 87656789876 or was a transfer subject to section 987656789

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