Facebook, Other Social Networking Sites Often Used in Jury Selection Process: Report

By Beecher Tuttle February 22, 2011

Prosecutors and defense attorneys have begun using social networking sites like Facebook to weed out jurors who may hold certain biases, according to a recent Wall Street Journal report.

Lawyers around the country have started to employ this tactic because a potential juror's Facebook page or Twitter account can often provide them with more candid information than a few short answers to generic questions.

Some attorneys have even tapped into social networking sites via their iPad during the juror selection process to find background information on prospective jurors. For high profile cases, lawyers will jump online to identify a juror's likes, dislikes, hobbies and affiliations, according to the Journal.

Josh Marquis, district attorney of Clatsop County in Oregon, told the news source that he used Facebook to help him pick a jury that would eventually decide whether to impose the death penalty on a convicted murderer.

Meanwhile, Paul Kiesel, a plaintiffs' lawyer in California, told the Journal that his law firm used social media sites to create profiles of potential jurors for a sex scandal case involving a Catholic priest. Although the case was settled out of court, Kiesel said that the tactic would have certainly aided their efforts.

"We could glean whether someone was identified with a religion, and get a sense of how devout they seemed to be," he said. "It's a waterfall of information, compared to the pinhole view you used to get."

Divorce and civil trial lawyers have also started using social media tools to help them unearth personal information on those involved in their cases. Sites like Facebook and MySpace have often been used to highlight extramarital affairs and other indiscretions that could help swing a verdict.

While the use of Facebook and other sites is seen as invaluable to some attorneys, others believe that these sources offer up distorted information about a person's real opinions.

"There are a number people who post who they want to be, as opposed to who they are," said Jason Schultz of the University of California, Berkeley Law School.

Beecher Tuttle is a TechZone360 contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Janice McDuffee

TechZone360 Contributor

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