The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Jury Duty in California? No Social Media Tools for You!

In today’s world of instant updates, you can pretty much summarize almost everything going on in your life into multiple split-second, 140-character tweets. That is, unless you’re serving your civic duty as a juror in California.

A new law signed by Governor Jerry Brown on Friday codifies a ban on the use of social media tools by members participating in jury duty in California, punishing would-be bloggers, facebookers and tweeters with six months in jail, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The legislation, authored by Los Angeles' own Assemblyman Felipe Fuentes, requires trial judges to tell jurors that the standard ban preventing them from researching the case or speaking to outsiders about case details applies to electronic and wireless communication. It also punishes jury members who violate the law with up to six months in jail for criminal contempt.

The legislation stems from a growing list of reports of jurors-behaving-badly, using cell phones and other wireless communication devices to look up a defendant's record or publish their opinions about the case for all of their networks to see.

One such infamous case occurred in Ventura County Superior Court, where Juror No. 7 blogged about the "whacked out" defense lawyer with the "Columbo detective-style of acting stupid" and posted a picture of the 15-inch saw-toothed murder weapon.

Although Judge Edward F. Brodie upheld the defendant's conviction of first-degree murder, other judges have declared mistrials or overturned jury verdicts due to juror misconduct.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger had vetoed similar legislation last year, but this year's bill unanimously won legislative approval. The law banning the use of social media tools by members serving jury duty in California to research and comment on cases will go into effect next year.

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