Twitter is an online social networking service that enables users to send and read short 140-character messages called “tweets.” Over 100 million users log in to Twitter on a daily basis, with 500 million tweets sent each day.1
And while social media can be a source of entertainment, news, connecting with friends or networking, it may also be shocking to see how it can be (mis)used in a courtroom during one of the most important constitutional rights granted: the jury trial.
So, here’s a primer on what jurors can do, and should not do, with Twitter when they are waiting to answer important questions ranging from “Do you feel like you could be a fair and impartial juror in this case?” to “Was the Defendant negligent?”
Some advice: Share this with friends and potential jurors.
DO tweet in the jury lounge.
A juror can spend at least two hours sitting in the jury lounge with 200+ strangers waiting to be called. But San Diego courts offer free wireless Internet, so why not make the best of the jury selection experience! Tweeting in the jury lounge is great way to keep up on world events or provide a fun distraction from the mundane.
DON’T tweet during jury selection.
When jurors are not in the box, they might think they can check out of the process. They’re told that they should listen to the questions asked so they can reflect on how they would respond, but that’s hard to do if they’re tweeting instead of listening.
Plus, jurors might not enjoy reading what others tweet about them:
DO follow the rules the judge gives you on not using social media.
In 2011, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 141 (effective 2012) into law which formalized long-standing informal rules banning the use of social media by jurors to discuss or research cases and amended CCP and PC sections, violations of which are subject to contempt proceedings. Who really wants to go to jail over live tweeting?
DON’T tweet during deliberations.
Yes, the cone of silence is still in place. Jurors are still not supposed to tweet about the case during the deliberation process. And while some tweets may be meant to be funny and arguably not about the case itself, a good rule of thumb? Just don’t do it.
DON’T tweet during the trial.
Jurors hear about the rules prohibiting social media use to talk about the case at the start of the trial. CACI 100 and CalCrim 101 are common preliminary admonitions that explain to jurors that they cannot talk about the trial with people, and that the prohibition extends to “all forms of electronic communications.” Yet …
DO share the experience afterwards.
It’s really not that bad, I promise. And you might like it.
Renée Galente (email@example.com) is a director for the San Diego County Bar Association and owner of Galente Law, APC.