United States defence lawyers are appealing against verdicts in two cases because the jurors made comments about the trials on social networking sites.
In some cases social networking sites such as Facebook have assisted the legal process. For example, it’s recently been used to serve court orders.
But in the two cases, US lawyers argue new technology compromised trials.
In one case a former senator found guilty of corruption charges is appealing against his verdict because a juror posted updates on the case on Twitter and Facebook saying they were his private musings.
The judge allowed him to continue deliberating on the case.
In another case a building materials company has asked an Arkansas court to overturn a civil case because a juror used Twitter to send updates during the trial.
The juror sent eight messages to the Twitter site using his mobile phone.
Michael Chesterman, an Emeritus Professor from the the University of New South Wales law faculty, says the US legal system is quite different to the Australian system when it comes to juries.
“The United States has a much freer set of rules about what jurors can or cannot do, than we do,” he said.
“I think it’s a pity because it opens up all sorts of pressures being put on the jurors while they’re doing their job.
“If they’re letting other people know who’s saying what in the jury room.”
He says social networking sites could present a challenge to those laws.
“Except I think it’s true to say that the incidence of any detection of jurors telling anybody about their deliberations during the trial is relatively low,” he said.
“They are warned about the need for confidentiality in their deliberations. And for them, for anybody to put up on a website any sort their account of what was going on would expose them to very easy detection and to criminal penalties.”