Are IPhones Causing Mistrials Nationwide?

According to a report in Tuesday's New York Times , there have been at least three cases nationwide--in journalism, three = TREND!--that point to what may become a larger problem: jury members using iPhones, BlackBerries, and other mobile devices to access the Internet, including Facebook and Twitter, during a trial. The resulting jury contamination can be used as a reason for throwing out the case and starting over.

The piece says that a federal trial in Florida this week had to be declared a mistrial as eight of the twelve jurors had been doing research on the case on the Internet.

The week before, "a building products company asked an Arkansas court to overturn a [US]$12.6 million judgment, claiming that a juror used Twitter to send updates during the civil trial."

A similar incident happened in Pennsylvania on Monday--the defense lawyers asked the judge in a federal corruption case trial of a former Pennsylvania state senator that a mistrial be declared because one juror had posted updates on Facebook and Twitter.

I've never been on a jury, but if I did, I'd probably have my iPhone close at hand. So I can totally understand the temptation to do online searches about a court case, or heck, even Twitter about it. That said, this really does go against that whole centuries-old traditions of jurisprudence thing.

So, this begs the question--how long until someone lets loose an iFart in a courtroom?

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