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In an era of social media and the Internet, should the
jury be retained or should it be scrapped? Give reasons for your answer.
In an era of social media and the Internet, people’s lives have
become much more easier. People can get connected with one and other by using
online social network; they can also get new information with just one click
away. Even for legal profession, it is not a stranger to Internet. However,
this is also one of the main reasons that make the jury system particularly
controversial in today’s world. There are more and more jurors were abandoned
due to their inappropriate practices of Internet, this indicates that we should
all start considering the continuous of the jury. The following will explain
why the jury should be abrogated from different perspectives, in which each of
the reason will be backed with sufficient evidences and examples.
First of all, the jury should be abolished as juror’s ability of
carrying out unbiased judgment is likely to be deteriorated with the use of
technology. Social networks like Facebook and Twitter allow people to share
their thoughts to million and receive responds through the function of
‘commenting’ and ‘typing a status’ (Eve and Zuckerman, 2012). In spite of the
fact that conclusion in a case would only be drawn without any external
influence, use of social network could increase risk of prejudicial
communication before juror returning a verdict (ibid). For example, juror
can conduct a poll about how one should judge the case or make a comment about
a case on any social media, in which opportunities to exercise enticement and
influence upon jurors is emerged, making the fairness and impartiality of the
juror’s judgment ambiguous. Hence, the jury should be abolished due to juror’ s
questionable verdict in this era of technology.
Apart from the
concern over the of the jury’s judgment, the jury should be scrapped as continuous
of the jury may undermine the legitimacy of judicial system. The purpose of the
jury trial was to give public a chance to participate in legal process so as to
making it more open and attaining pure justice. This is however anachronistic
in this social media and Internet era since side effect can be caused.
According to Thomas’s research (2010), for normal cases, 68% of jurors who are
over 30 years old have admitted doing research online; for high-profile cases,
81% of them had looked for extra information on Internet during the trial. This
does not only imply that chances of making biased judgment is increased but also
show that there would be a larger chance for juror to engender extra
information related to the case. There are various examples that groups of juror
were caught using Blackberry and iPhone to split information about the case
(Eve and Zuckerman, 2012). This would undeniably spawn public’s doubt about the
credibility of legal system and make people losing faith in it. Therefore, the
jury should be scrapped so as to ease public’s discontent and support the
legitimacy of current legal system.
Some may say verdicts
are always free from media influence, however this saying is seemingly not
valid. Those who support the continuous of the jury are often based on a belief
in the ‘fade factor’, which is an assumption that media reporting is less
likely to bring any effect to juror’s judgment (Anderson, 1995). However, there
is no practical evidence or research to show the validity of this presumption
(Thomas, 2010). Moreover, living in the era of social media and Internet, people
can still obtain new information or knowledge even they are just casually
browsing any websites, for instance, news report that pop up on the Facebook
‘feed’. Similarly, although jurors are strictly confined with the use of
Internet, media or online resources can still generate extra information of the
case for them even they are being passive to receive any kind of information,
especially for high-profile cases. As such, jurors can receive extra
information that might hamper their decision making process, no matter if they
are deliberated to or not. Therefore, even there is a chance for the existence
of the ‘fade factor’, the jury should still be abrogated in order to attain
All in all, today’s informative online virtual world poses new
challenges to the jury system, especially the righteousness of the jury’s
verdict. This essay has so far provided reasons in explaining why the jury
trail should be scrapped in today’s world i.e. concerns over prejudicial
communication, legitimacy of current legal system and social apprehension. In
sum, in light of Epstein’s words (2011), defendants in criminal cases are often
charged with the most serious offenses, so jury’s decision is essentially
important to criminal justice system. Therefore, it is a high time to start reconsidering
the continuous of the jury.
Amy St Eve and Michael Zuckerman (2012), “Ensuring an impartial jury
in the age of social media” Available at: http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1228&context=dltr.
Thomas, C. (2010), ‘Are juries fair?’ Available at: https://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/research-and-analysis/moj-research/are-juries-fair-research.pdf.
Epstein, R. (2011) ‘Are Juries Fair?’ Criminal Law and
Justice Weekly. Available at: http://www.criminallawandjustice.co.uk/features/Are-Juries-.
Anderson, J. R. (1995)
Learning and Memory: An Integrated Approach. Available at: http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/2004-19012-009