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By Jeff Terrill
Fort Wayne Reader
In Indiana, the judge reads preliminary instructions to the jury before opening statements are made by the prosecutor and the defense. Some of the instructions, for example, are about the burden of proof, procedures and the order in which the trial will proceed.
The judge also informs the jurors that they must not discuss the case during the trial with anyone other than their fellow jurors. In addition, the judge advises the jurors that they are not allowed to use their phones or computers to conduct research or investigate the case on their own.
Meet Mary. She’s not a real person. Shortly after arriving at the courthouse for jury duty, Mary learns that she is a potential juror in a criminal case about a man accused of hurting his girlfriend and then stealing her car. Mary can tell just by looking at the defendant that he has a violent temper. Mary knows that she will make an excellent juror. She does everything well — good job, great family, nice house. You get the point.
When asked by the prosecutor if she can promise to be fair, Mary explains that she will reserve judgment about the defendant’s guilt until after she hears all of the evidence. In response to a question by the defendant’s attorney, Mary acknowledges that the defendant is presumed to be innocent throughout the trial.
Mary makes it on the jury. She knew she would. Now she wants to be the foreperson. She’s used to leading others and she believes she’s well suited for the role.
After the first day of the two day trial, Mary hasn’t changed her mind one bit about the defendant’s guilt, but she wants to learn more. She remembers the judge saying something about not relying on outside information during the trial. She ignores the admonition and Google searches the defendant’s name. She pulls up a newspaper article about the arrest that mentions a cell phone video of the attack and a confession. She also finds an older article about the defendant being arrested for a different crime three years earlier. Mary also checks out other Internet sites to further her research. Now she knows he’s guilty.
After all of the evidence is heard on the second day of trial, the jurors leave the courtroom and start their deliberations. Mary listens to the others and then shares with them some of the information she learned on-line about the defendant and the law.
They return to the courtroom and the judge asks the foreperson to read the jury’s verdict. Mary stands up and informs the judge that the jury finds the defendant guilty on all of the charges.
Mary leaves the courthouse with the mistaken belief that justice was served.
Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you