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Technology In The Courtroom

Posted by Matthew J. Devoti on June 10, 2014

Interesting article in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch regarding jurors and their use of technology and, in particular, Google searches, during trials.

At immediate issue is whether a judge in St. Louis City will overturn a jury’s $7.5 million award to a former St. Louis police officer who claimed she was harassed in retaliation for complaints about sexual harassment.  A defense attorney in the case is asking the judge to overturn the verdict because a juror on the case admitted, after the trial, that he used Google to search the term “where do punitive damages go?”  while the jury was deliberating such damages.

Whichever way he rules in this case, the judge agrees this case will most likely end up in the Missouri Supreme Court.   This isn’t the first case of juror misuse of technology and it won’t be the last.  In recent years, there have been more and more reports of jurors using the internet, Google searches and social media to obtain facts about cases, clarify law definitions, post real-time trial updates and connect with other trial participants.

This is a significant problem the courts are facing and it is very difficult to control.  Despite instructions from the courts to refrain from viewing the Internet, using Google and social media outlets, jurors continue to violate the rules.  It will be interesting to see how the courts handle this technology invasion.

Read the full St. Louis Post-Dispatch article here.

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