Volume 96 - No. 3 Minnesota Law Review

Note, Armchair Jury Consultants: The Legal Implications and Benefits of Online Research of Prospective Jurors in the Facebook Era

Jury consulting is a longstanding practice in American courtrooms. The advent of the Internet and social networking, however, has moved the practice away from high-paid professionals, and has allowed practicing attorneys to become amateur jury consultants. It is now common practice for attorneys, either before or during jury selection, to conduct Internet research on prospective jurors. This research, because it mines such information-rich sources, is extremely valuable to attorneys concerned about the composition of their jury pool.

The Note examines this pervasive practice in the context of current jury selection jurisprudence. The Note analyzes–and ultimately dispels—common criticisms of the practice: that it infringes upon juror privacy, that it is ethically questionable, that it leads to undue manipulation of the jury pool, that it may lead to pretextual strikes for cause, and that it undermines the fairness of trials. The Note instead contends that such investigation of prospective jurors comports with the traditional reasons for peremptory challenges and results in a balanced jury pool. Finally, the Note argues that because of the benefits inherent in this practice, courts should uniformly release prospective juror information prior to trial, and should officially sanction the practice.

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