Mistrial in 140 Characters or Less? How the Internet and Social Networking are Undermining the American Jury System and What Can Be Done to Fix It
In a scene from the classic American film, 12 Angry Men, Henry Fonda, as the unwavering and steadfast Juror Number Eight, is the lone member of the jury convinced that the prosecution has failed to prove its case against the young defendant beyond a reasonable doubt. When deliberations turn to the supposedly unique knife that the young man allegedly used to kill his father, Fonda reaches into his pocket, dramatically pulls out a very similar switchblade, and plants its sharpened tip into the table next to the alleged murder weapon. He then reveals that he purchased the switchblade on a walk through the accused’s neighborhood. This begins to cast doubt into the jury’s mind, eventually resulting in an acquittal for the young man. While Fonda’s actions may have ensured that justice was done in this particular case, he disregarded the basic rules of jury deliberation. These acts amount to juror misconduct, as Fonda’s research provided extrinsic information for the members of the jury and brought in a new piece of evidence not presented at trial.