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Silencing the Twitter

Most potential jurors understand and are familiar with the traditional rule that jurors are sworn to¬†silence during¬†criminal trial proceedings. It’s common knowledge that they aren’t allowed to discuss the case with fellow jurors, witnesses or lawyers. Jurors are supposed to keep an open mind until all the evidence and arguments are presented, which means that watching newscasts, listening to radio broadcasts and reading newspaper articles that might give them a biased view of the case is out of the question. Unless you somehow missed these basic juror requirements in your middle school civics class, these rules are a given.

But electronic communication devices have eased into our social consciousnesses, commenting on everyday occurrences from the sidelines. These devices, media tools and social networking sites spew information, making it very difficult to keep a balanced view with all of the information flying around. Cell phones, Twitter, e-mail, Facebook, YouTube, iPhones, BlackBerry smartphones, text messaging and blogs have completely transformed how information is spread.

Catching up to the times, the Judicial Conference of the United States has released these gadget use rules to the federal judiciary to be included in juror instructions in order to curb all the twittering.

State courts continue to set their own jury instructions.

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