SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A new proposal could mean more than $1,000 in fines for California jurors who violate restrictions on social media.
Some worry a single tweet could compromise a verdict or leak important information about a case and cause a mistrial.
Several years ago, a Sacramento juror ended up in the headlines after he posted on Facebook that he was bored. The suspects in the case were convicted of a vicious beating and their attorneys argued that post meant he didn’t get a fair trial.
Myel Jenkins, a potential juror said she uses her cellphone for work and in personal life.
But Assemblyman Rich Gordon strongly believes jurors should abstain from all forms of social media and Internet use during a trial.
“We are all on our cellphones and iPads all the time,” he said. “The problem with that is that it can lead to a mistrial. We’ve seen that happen across the country where verdicts have been tossed out, trial have had to be redone.
Gordon authored Assembly Bill 2101, authorizing California judges in some counties to fine jurors up to $1,500 for misusing social media and the Internet.
“We also think it might be a deterrent to jurors and therefore improve the court process,” Gordon said.
Right now judges can use their discretion to either excuse a misbehaving juror, or even incarcerate them.
But Gordon believes a $1,500 fine sends an even stronger message.
Matt Lakin, a potential juror, said,”that’s quite a bit of money. Yeah. It might be a little stiff.”
These potential jurors are still deliberating on the stiff penalty.
Frankie Hally, another potential juror, said, “I do think a person should not be on social media if they’re on a case.”
Jenkins, the potential juror said, “$1,500 is a really strong incentive.”
Even with the penalty, the social media temptation for jurors is real.
“So it’d be really hard to give up the phone since you’re already giving up the time and then to not be able to connect with people online would be really hard as well,” Jenkins said.
The bill authorizes the judiciary to select some county courts for a 5-year pilot program.