Facebook helps courts with jury selection

facebook-jury-dutyPeople have long been using excuses to get out of jury duty that they don’t want to serve — even though it’s their civic obligation. But now you could be doing exactly that without even knowing it — just by posting on Facebook. According to a report by the Wall Street Journal, court officials are increasingly using social networking sites to decide who makes the cut in jury selections.

Prosecutors and lawyers have begun to look at what people post to Twitter, what status updates they “like” on Facebook, or which pictures they post to MySpace, to determine who does (and does not) make it onto a jury, says WSJ. Even what television shows or music a person likes, or what hobbies they have, play into the decision.

These details, these legal experts say, help determine where a potential juror’s biases lie — and, in turn, which side with whom that person might sympathize. For instance, if you post pro-marijuana sentiments, you’re unlikely to be picked for a case against a drug dealer.

Those tasked with jury selection say using social networking sites to learn about potential jurors has improved the selection system since actual face-time with jury candidates, when lawyers are allowed to ask probing questions, is highly limited. By looking at a person’s online profiles, lawyers are able to get a better glimpse of who people really are.

Others say, however, that what someone posts on their Facebook Wall isn’t indicative of what a person genuinely thinks or believes. Instead, it’s what they want to make people think they believe.

“I don’t think we should abandon that system in favor of Internet snooping,” Jason Schultz, co-director of the Samuelson Law, Technology & Public Policy Clinic at the University of California, Berkeley, law school, tells WSJ. “There are a number people who post who they want to be, as opposed to who they are.”