A couple of months ago, I wrote that jury duty has a new list of potential pitfalls for social media users. Seems I overlooked one potential pitfall in that post. This week, a juror in the U.K. was found guilty of contempt of court for striking up a Facebook friendship with the defendant. The defendant will pay a fine for contempt of court — but she goes free. The juror will go to prison for contempt of court.
You can read one of the many news stories about the case here. There are many troubling things about this case — not the least of which is that the defendant who struck up a Facebook friendship with a juror was acquitted while other defendants were convicted, and the fact that both the acquitted defendant and the juror were found guilty of the same act (contempt of court), but only the juror faces jail time.
But it serves as an object lesson to social media and Internet users who also wind up on juries. From the moment you begin the voir dire process, your rights to use search engines, social media sites, or even visit your local library, are restricted. Everything related to the case — from looking up definitions of words you hear in the courtroom to checking out a Facebook profile of one of the lawyers involved in the case, is strictly off-limits.