It's an admonishment jurors have received since Perry Mason was a pup: "Do not discuss, research or form an opinion about this case."
These days, that admonition seems as quaint and outdated as the black-and-white reruns in which Mason, the iconic TV barrister, lives on. Technology has changed the game.
The proliferation of smartphones and the ubiquity of wireless Internet access have given jurors -- instantly, effortlessly and in many cases anonymously -- the means to flaunt age-old judicial safeguards put in place to guarantee the constitutional right to a fair trial. Moreover, they have created for jurors a sense of entitlement to rival a judge's robed authority.
"They cannot stop themselves," Contra Costa Chief Public Defender Robin Lipetzky said. "It's so easy for them. Do we have statistics on this kind of misbehavior? No. But there's no doubt in my mind that it's pervasive."
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