And live, from the sequestered jury…..

19 02 2012

The Scales of Justice above The Old Bailey, London photo credit Colin Smith

You may have seen a recent article about a jury member, Jacob Jock, who sent a friend request to a defendant on an auto negligence trial he was enpanelled on. He claimed that he accidentally hit the “friend request” instead of the “mutual friends” button when doing a search on the defendant in response to the request for a declaration of whether the jurors knew anyone associated with the trial. OK, maybe plausible – stupid but maybe. He then failed to bring the “accident” to the attention of the court (later saying he hoped the defendant would forget about it) and instead waited until the defendant brought it to the attention of her lawyer.

Initially he was just dismissed from the jury – until he then posted :

“Score … I got dismissed!! apparently they frown upon sending a friend request to the defendant … haha.”

Hmmm. Clearly not the sharpest tool in the toolbox.

But there are others. IN the UK, a juror, Joanne Fraill, was jailed for 8 months for chatting about the trial on Facebook with the defendant in a drugs trial. (The defendant also got 2 months for contempt.) In her own trial Fraill claimed she contacted the defendant because she empathised with his life – however her message

…pleeeeeese don’t say anything cause jamie they could all miss trial and I will get 4cked to0” (sic)

seems to indicate that she knew she was doing the wrong thing and was jeopardising the entire trial. The defendants’ co-defendant Gary Knox is apparently now appealing his guilty verdict on the same grounds (juror misconduct).

Not only is it illegal to contact defendants and other participants in a trial before or during a trial, it is also illegal to conduct your own research. A difficult task in these days of the ubiquitous Google. However, University lecturer Theodora Dallas discovered this to her detriment. She is now spending 6 months in prison for contempt of court for not only conducting her own online research, but also sharing it with other jurors. She claimed that because it was on the internet it was “public knowledge”. Of course a university lecturer in particular should know that what is on the internet is not necessarily (shock, horror) unbiased fact. Present blog excepted of course. And also that jurors shouldn’t be conducting their own research.

In Detroit,. a 20-year-old woman, Hadley Jons, posted her guilty verdict prior to the jury entering deliberations “Gonna be fun to tell the defendant they’re guilty.” Read more: http://news.cnet.com/8301-17852_3-20015175-71.html#ixzz1mmayXNKC . Prior to the prosecution completing their presentation of the case, in fact. An interesting definition of the word “fun” is in operation here. Now she is waiting to find out if she will be found guilt of contempt of court. In this case the defense lawyer’s son happened upon the message when he was – yes, you guessed it – online researching the jurors. (And as an aside, if she had set her Facebook settings higher she might have got away with it.)

And although I can’t find the original information on this one, it is so amazing, I include it here with a link to the article. In 2008 in the UK a juror in a sexual misconduct trial was unsure of what her decision was so she held a FACEBOOK POLL. Unbelievable!

Technology is increasingly impacting on legal trials, and it would seem, the jurors are often the weakest link. You may be familiar with the impact that crime shows have had upon the legal system (the so-called CSI effect) – criminals have learned how to hide the evidence, and jurors expect water-tight cases to be put before them, complete with DNA. Now it is social media’s turn.

In November 2011 the US Federal Judicial System published a report into the use of social media by jurors during trials and deliberations. Thirty judges answered a questionnaire about their experiences, with 9 of them responding that they had had issues with jurors using social media during trials. Unfortunately, no juicy or bizarre stories included in this report, but some interesting tables:

And keep in mind this was a small sample size and related only to those that the judges had become aware of. An anonymous questionnaire for jurors may have rendered different results.  (It would also be nice to know what was in “other”.)

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – if it is illegal off-line, then it’s illegal online. Lawyers who discover juror social media misconduct are bound to report it, and it would seem from earlier cases that defendants and other jurors have also reported breaches. And the lawyers are probably online researching potential jurors for jury selection. Posted any comments on recent newsworthy events? “Liked” any groups lately? Reposted any dubious jokes or sayings? All this information may indicate to the lawyers what sort of person you are, what your prejudices or opinions are and how receptive you may be to the defendant. And if you have made comments on the case, that will probably come to light as well.

A 2010 article by Reuters Legal stated that 90 trial verdicts had been challenged in the US due to social media influence since 1999. Not a massive number, but then Facebook only existed since 2004 and Twitter came into being in 2006. So you will be unsurprised to know that the rate of juror social media transgression is escalating exponentially: more than half of the cases found by Reuters occurred between 2008 and 2010. It’s a growing trend – or perhaps just trending. In 28 cases the challenges resulted in new trials or overturned verdicts. And of course the untold millions of dollars in additional court costs.

The (US) Committee on Court Administration and Case Management has distributed model instructions for judges to use in instructing the jury on the use of social media. The instructions from the trial judge in the Conrad Murray case for the death of Michael Jackson are here. However short of sequestering jurors for the entire trial, removing or jamming all of their electronic devices, it would seem that this is a problem that is here to stay. Apparently common sense, respect for the legal process, and a sense of ethics cannot be relied upon.

At least someone has taken a novel approach to solving that problem: “Have to turn off phone before going into courtroom,” said a tweet…from @BennyAce [Lee Aronsohn, the co-creator and executive producer of Two and a Half Men]. “Apparently it can interfere with the judge’s navigation instruments.”

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A short list of cases is at the bottom of this article (including the woman who said the judge had told her not to tweet but hadn’t mentioned blogging….so presumably she thought that was OK), or try googling “juror, social media, mistrial” and see the hits come up! Or conduct your own research on Twitter searching for ” jury”.

Interested in Social Media? here are a few more links:
And today’s bizarre social media news……
when-sources-become-journalists
Net-detectives





Ethical Leadership

27 09 2011

I have had the pleasure of working for some really inspirational leaders, leaders from whom I learned a lot. These are some of the lessons I have learned from some of the best leaders I have worked for and observed.

1. Stand by your decisions. If you are making hard decisions that affect people’s lives, you put your face out there. There’s no hiding. If you make the decision, then you stand beside it, even when the going gets tough. (This doesn’t mean you can’t rethink.)

2. Be accountable. No excuses, if you make the decision then you own up to it.

3. Be fair. Find out the information from both (or more) sides of the story and hear both sides out fairly before making a decision. Particularly important in staff disputes and performance management situations.

4. Be available. People want to understand. They want to connect.

5. To err is human. We all make mistakes – you, me, everyone. It’s part of the human experience. Own up to your own mistakes and be clear that if you are changing your decision, you know you are changing your decision – you are not pretending that this was the decision all the way along (and why didn;t everyone esle understand that?). Likewise, recognise that the most perfect, hardworking and motivated employee will make mistakes from time to time.

6. Don’t make people wrong. So you are looking to lead your organisation in a new direction. Don’t start with a scorched earth policy – belittling and destroying everything that has gone before. What happened then happened for a reason and might have been the right thing at the time. Now times are different. You don’t need to make the past wrong in order to have a burning platform for change now and in the future. You also lose goodwill from staff if you denigate what they have done in the past.

7. Criticising the previous incumbent in your position is a cheap shot. And most of us recognise it for what it is. It doesn’t make your performance good, even in comparison. If you are good at your job, demonstrate it by being good, not by making everyone else bad.

8. Part of being a leader – a really big part of it – is dealing with your own emotional luggage. This is the EQ that makes someone a good leader because they aren’t wrapped up in their own emotions, triggers, reactions etc. You need to be able to be objective, you need to be focussed on the task at hand and how it is going. You need to not inflict your psychological hang-ups on others.

9. Being objective doesn’t mean you have no compassion. A Level 6 leader is a true human being who can bring their human compassion and understanding to the job – and still get the job done. It is possible to performance manage or discipline someone with compassion. It’s hard, and the person may not appreciate it at the time, but it’s ethical.

10. Bring people on the journey with you. Particularly if you are new to the organisation, you may have a different idea or understanding of what needs to be done, the direction you need to head in. But respect the people around you enough to explain it to them and bring them on the journey. They aren’t in the same “idea” space as you because their journey has been different. This means you need to lead.

11. Enthusiasm is contagious. If you are truly inspired by the tasks ahead of you, it is easier to inspire others. And inspiration works – it can set a workforce alight with ideas, energy and motivation. Be passionate.

12. You don’t have to pretend everything is great all the time – but be careful what you say. Casual throw-away comments by the leader can be taken very seriously by staff.

13. Set the example. People watch the leader to see what they are doing, what is the expected standard. Work hard and be seen to work hard. Be respectful of others. Model good morale and good relationships. Be ethical. All of these things set the tone for people around you and help establish a positive culture.

14. Don’t be fake. You’ll get caught out and you’ll lose all credibility. And being fake about caring about others, being ethical or being an expert in a field is a sure-fire recipe for disaster.

15. Assume the best motivations in people. Assume that most people want to come to work to do a good job. Usually you will be right. This doesn’t mean being naive or not recognising when something is wrong, but it gives people the opportunity to prove you right.

16. Be professional in all things.

That’s what comes to my mind as I think about some of the inspirational people I have known. The behaviours I have described, while modelled for me by leaders, are not only for leaders but also for people who want to be leaders, and those who want to work in a positive ethical workplace.

What else have I missed?