Jury selection may resume soon in the trial of Steven Hayes, accused of killing three people during a home invasion in Cheshire in 2007. Hayes is expected to appear in New Haven Superior Court on Monday. Jury selection has always been a challenging process, but as WNPR’s Diane Orson reports, today’s lawyers have something new to consider.
In the 1957courtroom drama “12 Angry Men”, jurors bring their emotions, bigotry and prejudices into deliberations.
"I don’t understand you people. I mean all these picky little points you keep bringing up. They don’t mean nothin’. Look, you know how these people lie. It’s born in them."
Now, many jurors bringing something else to the courtroom - information they’ve learned from internet searches. And that’s a problem says New Haven lawyer Willie Dow.
"People may have a pre-disposition to go one way or another. Usually from a criminal defense standpoint it's probably against you. Then over and above that, you’ve got the problem of whether jurors will follow the instructions that the court gives them."
Instructions, which are becoming increasingly explicit. Now judges may tell jurors not to check the web during trials, no googling, tweeting, texting or blogging about a case. Dow says there’s always a chance jurors won’t follow the judge’s instructions.
"‘Cause one of the concerns that all of us have is whether people will live up to their word. Jurors are asked to swear that they will not go outside the four corners of the courtroom. And it just comes down to that. Will people do that?"
Finding jurors for highly publicized cases like the Cheshire triple slaying becomes increasingly difficult with the dimensions of the publicity, says Dow. And staying away from online activity is important. In December, a Maryland appeals court reversed a first-degree murder conviction because a juror used the internet to do private research about the case.
For WNPR, I’m Diane Orson.