In our previous article we talked about a trial that took place recently in the Ingham County Circuit Court, but ended in a mistrial the next day due to jury misconduct. Which brings us to the subject of jury misconduct itself, and whether or not it is a bigger issue than many people realize.
Ask around and many people would tell you that frequent juror misconduct only happens in the movies. But ask the researchers at DOAR, a trial consulting firm, and they’ll tell you that it may actually be happening more often than we realized. And the biggest factor in this issue, it seems, is the internet.
According to Marlee Kind Dillon, PhD, a jury consultant at DOAR who was part of the team conducting the research, the biggest issue was in getting jurors to be honest about their misconduct. Obviously, no jurors are going to admit to a judge that they violated the instructions of the court. So how does one get a fact-based understanding of the issue? The team at DOAR tried something that has been done countless times in recent years, but never for this particular subject – an anonymous online survey. Suffice to say, the results were very revealing.
According to the results of their survey, juror misconduct happens considerably more often than anyone realizes, and the primary form it takes is online research. More than 50% of the jurors polled admitted to researching information relating to the case online during the trial. Compared to previous survey results, which involved surveys conducted by the court and didn’t guarantee anonymity, these results are astounding.
A total of 56% of the polled jurors admitted to using the internet to research details surrounding the case. The subjects they researched were as follows:
The Law – 56%
The Judge – 47%
Articles about the case – 40%
The Attorneys – 38%
The defendant – 34%
The jurors explained that the primary reasons they chose to research information online was because they were curious, and because they wanted to understand the law better in order to make a more informed decision. Other reasons given included things like, “I thought the news would give me information the court was leaving out” and “I didn’t understand something about the case.” However, while these may all sound like legitimate reasons for researching a topic, seeking outside information on a case is actually a violation of court orders and a violation of the rights of both parties to the case.
The reason for this is that both parties have the right to have the jury consider ONLY the evidence that is presented in court. The Kronzek Firm’s trial attorneys remind us that if it doesn’t get discussed in the courtroom, it isn’t evidence that can lawfully be considered by the jury. Our judge’s here in Michigan give explicit instructions to jurors about what they can, and what they cannot consider during their jury deliberations. If a juror violates that order from the judge, contempt charges are possible and a mistrial is probable.
Other information gathered by the survey revealed that many jurors violated the court’s instruction in other ways as well while serving on the jury. These included:
- Discussing the case with friends and family members.
- Discussing the case with other jurors before deliberations began.
- Posting about the case online through social media.
The survey also revealed some interesting facts about juror misconduct. For example, younger jurors are more likely to violate court law than older jurors, and college educated jurors were more often guilty of juror misconduct than non-college educated jurors. Another area where juror misconduct was more prevalent was specific to gender – male jurors are apparently more likely to break the rules than female jurors. One interesting point was that apparently jurors from New York state and California are more likely to do online research during the trial than jurors from any other state.
Join us next time, when we will be looking at the conclusions drawn by this research group, and the implications that they believe it may have for trials all over the US. Until then, if you or a loved one have been accused of a crime and need strong and aggressive legal representation, call The Kronzek Firm immediately at 866 766 5245. Our highly skilled defense attorneys have been defending the people of Michigan for decades, and we are here to help you as well!