Social Media Research During Jury Selection

Carolyn Koch

The New Necessity: Imagine you represent a police officer charged with murder in a case that sparks outrage in a racially-divided community. To protect your client from the rampant bias you know he will be facing, the court grants your request for a written questionnaire.

Written Questionnaires Only Go So Far: When the questionnaire results come in, you can see that at least 60% of the jury pool is seriously biased based on what they read in the news. The few jurors who claim to have an open mind go into the “good pile,” so if they are called into the box, you might be able to rest easy.

The Importance of Social Media Research: One of our “good pile” jurors gave perfect questionnaire answers. She had an open mind. She appreciated law enforcement. At least that’s what she said in writing, under oath.

On Day 1 of the jury selection, a lot of people were excused. They admitted their biases on the questionnaires, and then again in open court. We also had Jeri Cobb, our Lead Social Media Investigator searching each juror for whatever she could find on the internet because we knew that we couldn’t count on jurors being completely honest.

Our “Good” Juror Was Faking It: At the end of Day 1, our juror from the “good pile,” (let’s call her Linda Smith) hadn’t yet been called. All through the night, Jeri searched and searched and at 4:00 a.m., she sent us the email entitled “Linda Smith!” along with Linda’s recent post:

Had Jeri not found this post, Linda would have certainly slipped onto this jury and it literally could have resulted in a murder conviction. Luckily, we had peremptory challenges left and she was well worth the strike. The 4:00 a.m. email was a stark reminder that in today’s complicated society, jurors’ true beliefs are more likely to be found on the internet, than in open court.