|No Phone Zone for Jurors
In a mere 43 pages, the Florida Supreme Court has told judges, civil, and criminal defense lawyers how to address widespread use of electronic devices by jurors in courts. We now have guidance on what is meant by turning off these devices. There are very specific instructions to be given during trials. The instructions now tell jurors what to do with computers, tablets, and cell phones during breaks and recesses. Jurors also receive an explanation of why they are to be disconnected with the outside world during jury service.
What has Florida told lawyers and Judges about use of electronics by Jurors?
“The rule provides that electronic devices will be removed from all members of a jury panel before jury deliberations begin. The presiding judge may remove the jurors’ electronic devices at other stages of the trial. If electronic devices are removed from members of the jury panel during trial, the judge may order them returned during recesses. If a jury panel is sequestered, the judge may decide whether to remove electronic devices during the entire period of sequestration. The rule also makes clear that during court proceedings, jurors cannot use their electronic devices to take photos or videos, or to transmit or access data or text. At all times, jurors are prohibited from using the devices to research information about the case or to communicate with others about the case or jury deliberations.”
What does the Court mean when Jurors are told to turn off electronic devices?
“All cell phones, computers, tablets or other types of electronic devices must be turned off while you are in the courtroom. Turned off means that the phone or other electronic device is actually off and not in a silent or vibrating mode.”
What are Jurors told about use of electronics in Court?
“Many of you have electronic devices such as cell phones, smartphones, tablets, and laptops, computers, and other electronic devices. Even though you have not yet been selected as a juror, there are some strict rules that you must follow about using your cell phones, electronic devices and computers.”
“When you are called to a courtroom, the judge will give you specific instructions on the use of electronic devices. These rules are so important that the judge may tell you that you must turn off your cell phone or other electronic devices completely or that you cannot have your cell phone or electronic devices in the courtroom. If someone needs to contact you in case of an emergency, the judge will provide you with a phone number where you can receive messages.”
“If the trial judge allows you to keep your cell phones, computers, or other electronic devices, you cannot use them to take photographs, video recordings, or audio recordings of the proceedings in the courtroom or your fellow jurors. You must not use the many device to search the Internet or to find out anything related to any cases in the courthouse.”
Why are Jurors told to log off of cell phones, smartphones, tablets, and laptops, computers, and other electronic devices.?
“Why is this restriction imposed? This restriction is imposed because jurors must decide the case without distraction and only on the evidence presented in the courtroom. I know that, for some of you, these restrictions affect your normal daily activities and may require a change in the way you are used to communicating and perhaps even in the way you are used to learning.”
“If you investigate, research, or make inquiries on your own, the trial judge has no way to make sure that the information you obtain is proper for the case. The parties likewise have no opportunity to dispute or challenge the accuracy of what you find. Any independent investigation by a juror unfairly and improperly prevents the parties from having that opportunity our judicial system promises.”
“Between now and when you have been discharged from jury duty by the judge, you must not provide or receive / discuss any information about your jury service to / with anyone, including friends, co-workers, and family members. You may tell those who need to know where you are that you have been called for jury duty. If you are picked for a jury, you may tell people that you have been picked for a jury and how long the case may take. However, you must not give anyone any information about the case itself or the people involved in the case. You must also warn people not to try to say anything to you or write to you about your jury service or the case. This includes face-to-face, phone or computer communications.”
“In this age of electronic communication,I want to stress that you must not use electronic devices or computers to talk about this case, including tweeting, texting, blogging, e-mailing, posting information on a website or chat room, or any other means at all. Do not send or accept any messages, including e-mail and text messages, about your jury service. You must not disclose your thoughts about your jury service or ask for advice on how to decide any case.”
“After you are called to the courtroom, the judge will give you specific instructions about these matters. The / A judge will tell you when you are released from this instruction. Remember, these rules are designed to guarantee a fair trial. It is important that you understand the rules as well as the impact on our system of justice if you fail to follow them. If it is determined that any one of you has violated this rule, and conducted any type of independent research or investigation, it may result in a mistrial. A mistrial would require the case to be tried again at great expense to the parties and the judicial system. The judge may also impose a penalty upon any juror who violates this instruction. All of us are depending on you to follow these rules, so that there will be a fair and lawful resolution of every case. ”
What happens with electronics when jurors take a break or recess?
“We are about to take [our first] [a] recess. Remember that all of the rules I have given you apply even when you are outside the courtroom, such as at recess. “
“Remember the basic rule: Do not talk to anyone, including your fellow jurors, friends, family or co-workers about anything having to do with this trial, except to speak to court staff. This means no e-mailing, text messaging, tweeting, blogging, or any other form of communication.”
“You cannot do any research about the case or look up any information about the case. Remember to observe during our recess the other rules I gave you. If you become aware of any violation of any of these rules at all, notify court personnel of the violation.”
“After each recess, please double check to make sure [that your cell phone or other electronic device is turned off completely] [that you do not bring your cell phone or other electronic device into the courtroom or jury room].”
|Read the Complete Criminal and Civil Instruction for Jurors and Cell Phones Here