Posted September 16, 2009 10:40 am by with 4 comments

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There’s now a place in the US, where using Google can land you in jail: a San Diego courtroom.

According to the Union Tribune, a case going before a California jury will be the first to enforce a rule preventing jurors from using Google (or the web in general) to conduct research on the case, or from updating their social networking status.

…jurors will have to sign declarations attesting that they will not use “personal electronic and media devices” to research or communicate about any aspect of the case. That includes computers, cell phones and laptops. Jurors will have to sign the declarations, made under penalty of perjury, both before and after they serve.

I won’t go into the full details of the trial, but an attorney in a wrongful death lawsuit is concerned jurors will use their iPhones and Blackberrys to try and determine if the organizers of a radio contest should have known that their antics were dangerous. He also wants to prevent jurors from learning details of the case, not admissible in the courtroom.

In court papers, Levine argued that jurors “conducting independent research on Internet sites whether through computers or through cellular phones with Internet capabilities has become a judicially recognized occurrence and has been found to constitute juror misconduct” in several cases across the nation.

According to legal experts, the requirement is unlikely to stop jurors from whipping out their iPhone and even if caught, it’s unlikely the juror will receive anything worse than a fine–but more likely a stern talking to from the judge.

What do you think about this new rule? Should we restrict access to information or are we trying to prevent the inevitable integration of technology in the courtroom?


  • I think it makes sense. If our justice system should need updating, I don’t believe the innovation should come from the jury room. If I had a case (civil or criminal) going before a jury, I would want to be assured those jurors were only taking into consideration what the court deemed permissable.

    There is a lot of crap on the Internet anyway.

  • richard kaloust

    it is important for our justice system to catch up with the world we live in today. information comes so quick that the truth can be past bye .

  • Tim

    This is an absolute no-brainer. Juries are empanelled to decide on the evidence presented before them in a properly constituted Court of Law and any communication or information relating to the case gained outside of the court precludes the accused from a fair trial. Impartiality is a prerequisite for any juror, and who really believes that anyone can rely on information gained from the internet anyway? This would become very close to trial by media and we all know how grossly unfair and unjust that is.

  • Ian Feavearyear

    I agree with Tim, jurors absolutely should not be allowed to seek information outside the courtroom. A case is to be decided on evidence presented by the prosecution and defense and not random information gleaned via a search engine, anything else completely undermines the adversarial system.