Debate over jury members use of social media


The wash up from the Gable Tostee trial has dominated legal circles today.

There is no indication yet if the Crown will appeal the verdict because of the actions of a juror on social media.

Tostee was found not guilty of the murder or manslaughter of Warriena Wright.

Elisabeth Moss reports.

TRANSCRIPT

Jurors are told specifically not to communicate with anyone outside the trial.

Their phones are removed but there’s nothing to stop jurors using them outside court.

Experts say if they do, they could easily identify themselves.

Bill Potts, QLD Law Society President: “A juror can be bribed, a juror could be threatened, a juror could be killed. These are serious ramifications.”

In the Tostee case, the defence urged the judge to dismiss the case because of the Instagram posts.

If a case is thrown out, it can result in a massive waste of taxpayers money as well as anguish for the families of the victim and the accused.

There are suggestions jurors should once again be locked away in hotels overnight away from television or newspapers or phones.

Susan Hetherington, Social Media Commentator: “We don’t want to make life uncomfortable for the juror but I think the honest answer is you will need to hand your phone in”

The Jury Act, covering the behaviour of jurors was last updated for years ago.

James Morton, QUT Criminal Law and Evidence Lecturer: “with social media becoming such a moving tool, I think it’s time the law changed to keep up with the changing times.”

But some question the need for juries at all, suggesting trials could be decided by judges.

It’s understood the juror who used her phone throughout the Tostee trial won’t be punished.

Elisabeth Moss, QUT News


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