SCOTUS backs state in Kent County jury case

From Lawyers USA:

In a ruling that could make it tougher for minority defendants to challenge convictions by all-white juries, the Supreme Court today in Berghuis v. Smith reversed a 6th Circuit ruling that a Michigan jury selection system — which the defendant claimed drained black jurors from the pool before criminal juries could be selected — did not violate the Sixth Amendment.

Delivering the unanimous opinion for the Court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that the 6th Circuit should not have disturbed a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that the defendant failed to show a constitutional violation.

“Warranting heavy weight, the Michigan Supreme Court, in a cogent decision, had held that Smith’s evidence failed to prove ‘systematic exclusion’” of black jurors, Ginsburg said today from the bench in announcing the decision. “[A]s that determination was not at all unreasonable, the 6th Circuit had no warrant to disturb it.”

Should jurors refrain from the Internet during service?

Should the court and parties reasonably expect jurors to refrain from using the internet and, more importantly, discussing the case on Facebook?

Members of the jury who convicted Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon of misappropriating gift cards Tuesday became friends on Facebook as much as a week earlier and referenced the case in online messages between days of deliberations.

While it is not yet clear if the five jurors’ outside-of-court communications constitute juror misconduct, Visiting Judge Dennis M. Sweeney had routinely instructed them during the trial not to discuss the case with anyone outside deliberations, specifically prohibiting Internet commentary.

Sweeney said they could tell their families and employers that they were hearing the Dixon case but otherwise encouraged them to keep a low profile.

HT: Juries

It’s an interesting point. Obviously, jurors are told not to discuss the case with anyone during the trial. But is it realistic to believe that they won’t, especially in our current TMZ/tabloid times? And social networking sites make it easier to talk about it with more people.