Use of Smartphones by the Jury During Criminal Trial

As a Jacksonville Criminal Trial Lawyer, I constantly review nuances in trial law.

When a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney conducts a criminal trial, there are certain procedures that have to be followed in order to protect the client’s rights. In most criminal trials, a jury is selected. In Duval County, the jury pool consists of people who have a driver’s license. The first thing that happens in a trial is jury selection. Both the prosecutor and Duval County Criminal Attorney will get the chance to question potential jurors to make sure they can be fair and impartial for that particular case.

Once selected, the jurors will have to consider any evidence presented to decide whether or not they believe the defendant is not guilty or guilty. The jurors are instructed by the judge to only consider the evidence presented in trial alone to make their determination Jurors are not allowed outside sources, such are law books or a dictionary, to help them make their decision.

It seems that everyone has a cell phone these days, most of which are smartphones. There was a case just south of Jacksonville, Florida where one of the jurors used their smartphone to look up the definition of “prudent”, which was a word contained in the jury instructions. That juror shared their findings with the other jurors and the defendant was convicted.

The appellate court reversed the defendant’s conviction and gave him a new trial. Using the smartphone was juror misconduct. Once juror misconduct is established by the court interviewing the jurors, the defendant is entitled to a new trial unless the opposing party, the prosecutor in this case, can show there was no reasonable probability that the juror misconduct affected the verdict. In this case, the word “prudent” was mentioned in the jury instructions and was repeatedly used by the attorneys in argument.