Lawyers tap social media for insight on potential jurors

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by JENNY DOREN

WFAA

Posted on June 24, 2014 at 5:26 PM

Updated Wednesday, Jun 25 at 8:14 AM

Poll:
Do you think it's ethical for lawyers to scan social media sites of potential jurors?

DALLAS — Have you ever Googled yourself? There is a wealth of information on the Internet, and with social media — as you undoubtedly know by now — your life is on display.

What you might not know is that lawyers are interested in what you’re sharing. The American Bar Association ruled that it is ethical for lawyers to scan your Facebook and Twitter feeds, LinkedIn accounts, and more to judge your fitness for jury duty.

"There is this natural tendency for most lawyers and, I know, jury consultants... we want to know more about you,” said Mary Griffitts of Trial Consulting Enterprises. She is a jury consultant in Dallas.

"The line in which you don't want to cross is that once they get seated, there should be no communication with them, because that is tampering with the jury," she explained.

The ABA says it’s fine for lawyers to examine jurors’ public profiles and histories. What’s off-limits is anything private. Griffitts said the information she collects doesn’t taint the trial.

“I've been doing this for about 15 years, and just demographic raw data about someone isn't necessarily outcome-determinative of when they sit down and listen to the facts of your case and the group dynamic that takes place," she said.

Griffitts said jurors’ online postings about what they’re hearing and seeing in the courtroom have resulted in several mistrials across the nation. Lawyers and judges have been wrangling for years over how far they can go in assembling a jury they feel is fair. Many people think social media can help.

Outside the George Allen Courthouse in Dallas, opinions are mixed.

Mincing no words, Adarius Clark said he opposes letting lawyers scan social media accounts of potential jurors "It's a bull crap deal,” he said. “To do that is like stereotyping or pre-judging someone. It's like, 'Well, if somebody did this, I'm not going to pick him, because they don't like such.'”

Crystall Johnson disagrees. "It's fair game for anybody to look at it," she said. “If they scan it and they find some reason they don't want you, it's your own stupid fault. You really shouldn't put something on there, if you don't want to be judged by it.”

It just goes to show you the verdict is still out on this one.

E-mail jdoren@wfaa.com

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