Social Media’s Impact on the Courtroom

Social media has changed the way we receive news; we not only have access to all kinds of news from various media outlets, but we are also exposed to our friends’ and families’ opinions through social media. Recently, we have seen the emergence of social media’s affect within the judicial system. Public discussion about high profile cases isn’t new, however these discussions are now heavily influencing courts and jurors. This brief yet interesting interview from NPR highlights how social media is posing challenges in courtrooms.

The host inquires about a recent hearing of admitted Boston bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, where victims shared their tragic stories. Tsarnaev’s defense wanted the case moved to another more un-biased city, yet the judge refused, stating that we live in a society that has access to all of the same information because of social media, so it is almost impossible to find an unprejudiced jury.

There have been similar scenarios in the news lately, for example the effect the ‘Serial’ podcast has had on Adnan Syed’s case. Similarly, HBO’s documentary series ‘The Jinx’ has reopened Robert Durst’s case. High profile cases such as these will likely continue to be brought into the public spotlight. In the article, Judge Randall suggests that a new set of rules will have to be set in place to handle the impact of social media on the judicial system.

Full Article: http://www.npr.org/2015/03/08/391708142/fair-trials-in-a-media-saturated-age

Questions:

How should the court handle the emergence of social media and its affect on jurors?

What are the pro’s and con’s of social media within the judicial system?

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3 thoughts on “Social Media’s Impact on the Courtroom

  1. This is a very interesting topic. The truth is that in todays world information is too easily accessible and blogs and social media posts can be read and shared by practically anyone. With regards to jury trials, in the past jurors were isolated so that they would not be exposed to media coverage of the cases, but now information is so readily available that most of us are privy to vast amounts of information, perspectives and opinions on everyday events as they occur. It will be difficult for judges to regulate how jurors react to social media posts but having jurors express how they came to their decision based solely on the information provided in court will likely be the only way to make sure that no external factors influenced their decision in the courtroom.

  2. Social media provides a ton more evidence for the courtroom that did not exist in the past. Tweets and Facebook posts could tell a lot about a person’s character. I think it will be very tough for judges to find impartial jurors in the future. I would love to know how they selected the jurors for the Tsarnaev case because I can’t imagine people who knew nothing about this Boston bombings. I agree with Sandra. I think there should be more regulations to ensure only the information provided in court can be used in determining a verdict.

  3. With the development of social media and the Internet, all the information and news are with a very high accessibility and travel so fast. I think it is almost impossible to isolate courtroom from social media users’ opinions and eliminate judges’ prejudices or biases. Thus I think essentially this issue is more about a judge’s professionalism. For external, I agree with Sandra and Jeffrey, regulations of ensuring only the information provided in court and in the case can be used to make any decision could be helpful.

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