Jurors' Use of Google + Twitter Blamed for Mistrials

Here's a must-read piece by NY Times writer John Schwartz on jurors using Google and Twitter, with resulting mistrials. According to John's piece, last week one building products company in Arkansas asked a court there to overturn a judgement for nearly $13 million because a juror live-twittered the civil trial. Snip:

Last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, directly violating the judge's instructions and centuries of legal rules. But when the judge questioned the rest of the jury, he got an even bigger shock.

Eight other jurors had been doing the same thing. The federal judge, William J. Zloch, had no choice but to declare a mistrial, a waste of eight weeks of work by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers.

"We were stunned," said a defense lawyer, Peter Raben, who was told by the jury that he had been on the verge of winning the case. "It's the first time modern technology struck us in that fashion, and it hit us right over the head."

It might be called a Google mistrial. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges.

As Jurors Turn to Web, Mistrials Are Popping Up (Thanks, John Schwartz, also spotted via @cshirky)