Lawyers are free to mine the social-media accounts of jurors, but they may not request access to an account that’s hidden behind a privacy wall, according to an ethics opinion issued Thursday by the American Bar Association.
In sum, the rules give lawyers a green light to scour a juror’s Twitter feed, Facebook account or any other site where they posted comments, photos or videos about themselves for anyone to see. Everything that’s public online is fair game. And the same goes for potential jurors during jury selection.
But lawyers are advised against Facebook ‘friending” a juror, sending a Twitter follower or LinkedIn request to a juror who restricts access to their accounts. That’s considered communication under ABA rules restricting contact between lawyers and jurors not authorized by the court.
“This would be akin to driving down the juror’s street, stopping the car, getting out, and asking the juror for permission to look inside the juror’s house because the lawyer cannot see enough when just driving past,” stated the opinion, which was handed down by the ABA’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility.
The opinion also advises lawyers what to do if they stumble across content about a juror that they suspect may be evidence of improper behavior.
They’re only obligated to report it to the court if the juror or a potential one appears to be up to something that looks “criminal or fraudulent, including conduct that is criminally contemptuous of court instructions.”
But if lawyers encounter something more innocuous, like a juror tweeting about a rotten meal she had at the court cafeteria, they don’t have to tell anyone, even if the juror appears to be disobeying instructions about what she can say outside the courtroom.
Criminal Defense, the California Killings and Implications within Criminal Defense
Suddenly a gun holder opens fire on a crowd instantly killing some and fatally wounding quite a number. How, as a criminal defense attorney would you defend such successfully? You must create adequate doubt on all accusations by the prosecution.
The following are some of the common defenses:
- Prove that They have the wrong man
The defendant claims that he is the wrong person. In the two cases of Elliot Roger at Santa Barbara and Joseph Ferguson at Sacramento the criminal defense attorney, in absence of any video evidence, may put forth a case for “the wrong man”. The crime of murder took place but not by this defendant. In this scenario you can create an alibi.
As defense poke holes in the prosecution witness so as to create doubt in the entire case. For instance you can allude that the suspect was gunned down by police to cover up a sinister motive. The police could have immobilized the suspect, you may argue. In absence of video evidence to the contrary, this line of defense may prove successful.
- Demonstrate that It was done in Self-Defense
The defense admits to the crime and the criminal defense attorney claims that it was justified in the circumstances. In case of mass murder, as the case of Elliot Roger and Joseph Ferguson, one can claim that the crowd was after severely injuring or even killing the suspect so he had no choice but to open fire. The defendant can claim that he was not the aggressor and that death to him was eminent.
- Prove Insanity of Defendant or Undue Influence
As attorney, establish beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant was not in control of themselves at the time of committing the murder. Demonstrate that they were not mentally and psychologically aware of what they were doing at the time. The defense may put forth a case that the defendant was legally insane. Demonstrate that they committed a crime under the influence of drugs and chemicals that would affect their mental functioning and that they cannot be held accountable for their actions.
There are quite many lines of arguments as to why a criminal defense attorney would want their client acquitted. Importantly is how convincing you are to the judge and jury not the bare facts. The cases of mass murder plus suicide as in California recently, can best be argued of as cases of insanity of the defendant.