The ABA Journal posted an article recently on should jury trials be moved to Zoom. I posted a poll this morning on my Twitter feed @RobMcKinney to get some feedback. From the lawyers responding it was a solid rebuke to the notion of a future of Zoom jury trials. First, I do not think that radical changes should be made to the American jury trial system. In my mind, it is the only mechanism that protects citizens from over zealous District Attorneys and police. Let’s examine some of the reasons why Zoom should not be used for jury trials.
- Lawyers cannot observe the body language of the jurors during jury selection. I agree with that reason. I have learned more about a potential juror from nonverbal communication. A look at a fellow juror on a answer of a fellow juror or the roll of the eyes.
- Connecting with the jury.
- One of my thoughts was the potential for third party interference. In a murder trial, I tried years ago a witness for the state send a Facebook friend request to one of the jurors. The juror notified the court and appropriate action was taken.
- A juror could do their own independent research on the issue or have someone at home influence the verdict.
- Jurors would not be able to observe witnesses. A key point in judging a witness is how they react to a question.
- How do we really know whether a juror is paying attention ?
Here is just one example. Our firm tried a murder case in Williamson County, Tennessee earlier this year. My trial partner noticed how much the jurors were paying attention and invested in the case. We decided to waive closing argument based on our observations. We were right. The jury returned a verdict to a lessor charge which was our goal.
Zoom has a place for meetings, conferences and even having the court to accept a plea bargain . It still has no place in conducting jury trials.