Jury duty isn’t everyone’s favorite pastime, but unfortunately it’s going to become a lot more complicated. Lawyers are now checking the Twitter, Facebook and other social network accounts of potential jurors, to get a feel for their opinions and any comments they may have made on high-profile cases.
Lawyers in the Conrad Murray trial – Michael Jackson’s doctor accused of involuntary manslaughter – are set to appear in court today to argue which jurors should be removed from the trial. But it won’t just be those juror’s answers on a 100-question questionnaire that the lawyers will use to inform their discussion – it will be Twitter, too.
According to CNN, legal experts examining this case and ones similar to it agree that it is perfectly acceptable for lawyers to pry into the social media habits of potential jurors.
Part of the reason that social media is so valuable in a case like this one is due to its very public nature. High-profile cases that are featured prominently in the media will often elicit public commentary from social media users. Lawyers are using Twitter and Facebook to determine whether a potential juror had any public opinions about the case and Murray specifically prior to their being called for jury duty.
Richard Gabriel, a jury consultant with Decision Analysis, explains why Twitter is particularly useful to lawyers vetting jurors:
“If they have a Twitter account, it can give you a little bit more about how they interact with the rest of the world, not just in a courtroom setting.”
However, he notes that most cases don’t offer the time necessary to actually visit the social networking profiles of all potential jurors, as jury selection usually is completed in a few hours. High-profile cases like the Murry and Casey Anthony trials do allow more time and thus a scrutiny of social media.