The BBC reported that the verdicts in two US trials are being appealed against because of comments about them on social networking sites made by jurors. Jurors are forbidden to discuss anything relating to a case outside the courts, but experts believe that the emergence of new technologies is challenging the rules.
In the two cases, defence lawyers say that postings by jurors on sites such as Twitter and Facebook could be grounds for appeal. In one case in Philadelphia, juror Eric Wuest admitted posting comments about proceedings on Facebook, such as telling people to expect "a big announcement on Monday." Wuest maintained that they were his private musings, and the judge resisted calls from the defence to remove him from the jury.
The other case is taking place in Arkansas, where building materials company Stoam Holdings has appealed against a judge's order to pay out $12.6m to its investors, claiming that juror Jonathan Powell was posting messages related to the trial on Twitter. One of the messages apparently read "Nobody buy Stoam. It's bad mojo and they'll probably cease to exist, now that their wallet is 12m lighter."
Earlier this month, Twitter caused court controversy when lawyers in Kansas voiced concerns about the fact that Wichita Eagle reporter Ron Sylvester was Tweeting from the courtroom and jurors might be influenced by his posts. But US District Judge J Thomas Marten dismissed their arguments, saying that jurors are always told to avoid any media coverage.
Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook that give anybody the chance to express themselves freely online undoubtedly alter the balance of control over information in court, which has before been easier to keep track of when solely in the hands of the traditional media. It is an issue which raises serious ethical questions if it is actually affecting legal verdicts.