At 11:02 this morning, @augie50 sent out this tweet: "Not hard
to tell who is here for jury duty and who isn't in the security
In a few clicks we found out that @augie50 is Trevor August. We
also learned August's hometown, his college football
preferences, his current job, and, assuming his Facebook
profile picture isn't of someone else, that he's bungee jumped
at least once.
The chances are very good that the lawyers conducting the voir
dire during August's jury duty know all about him as well.
These days, a "jury of our peers" might better be described as
a cross-section of Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and
LinkedIn connections. That's why Ron Kurzman, the director of
litigation consulting for Magna Legal Services, launched a
product called Jury Scout, which monitors a prospective juror's
public social-media profile in order to help decide whether
that person would likely agree or disagree with his client's
The idea for Jury Scout was born about eighteen months ago,
when a lawyer in the middle of a three-month trial in Los
Angeles noticed a prospective juror continually typing on his
mobile phone. The lawyer called Kurzman, who was working with
him on the case. Kurzman searched the Internet and found out
that the juror was posting repeatedly about the trial. Those
comments resulted in the juror being removed and Kurzman
developing the idea for Jury Scout.
Local rules and wireless access permitting, Kurzman sends a
member of his team to courtrooms nationwide to get the names of
potential jurors in voir dire. Jury Scout takes those names and
searches approximately 50 different social media sites using a
proprietary code Magna Legal developed. The searched sites
include not only Facebook and Twitter, but also Yelp, Pandora,
and a variety of others. If Jury Scout finds that a potential
juror likes, say, a radio show that indicates the candidate
might be not be sympathetic to Magna's client, Kurzman's team
passes that information along to the attorneys asking the
questions. The service costs $295 per search.
Jury Scout may offer the most comprehensive scouring of social
media sites, but Magna isn't the only jury consultant that
offers real-time juror searches. In fact, checking social media
during voir dire is now commonplace, said Dr. Phil Anthony, the
CEO of DecisionQuest. (He's not THAT Dr. Phil, but his company
has participated in every trial from Pennzoil v. Texaco, to
Enron and O.J.) "We're not prying into people's lives -- we're
looking at what they've posted out there in the world for
everyone to see," he said.
Consultants usually stop monitoring jurors once the trial is
underway, according to Anthony and Kurzman. This is because
lawyers are concerned about their ethical obligation to report
jurors for discussing the trial outside of the jury box. While
that obligation varies from state-to-state, said University of
North Carolina assistant law professor Bernard Burk, even in
those states where you don't have to tell, few lawyers would
want to risk angering a judge by failing to pass along
information that could taint a verdict.
For this reason, Kurzman said, many of his clients wait until
the jury has delivered a verdict before checking to see what
jurors were up to during trial. Kurzman said that especially
after a loss, his clients request Jury Scout searches, hoping
to find fodder for appeals.
By the way, attorneys in Santa Monica may want to keep their
eyes on @shanepang, aka Shane Pangburg, who tweeted today that
"The courthouse WiFi blocks Twitter, but not my Twitter app. I
will not be silenced. #juryduty"
(Reporting by Erin Geiger Smith)
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