Joseph J. Colarusso, Attorney at Law
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Does social media affect your right to a fair trial?

Arrests or charges filed in a case involving a violent crime are immediate content for social media. News organizations are quick to splash details all over their social media accounts and encourage followers to make comments and discuss the case. If you are charged with a violent crime, you may wonder how this will affect your right to a fair trial. Afterall, if the potential jury pool is reading about your case and hearing all these opinions on it, can they really be impartial?

According to Rights Info, the biggest risk to a fair trial is that jury members will use social media to look for information that was not presented in court. Jury instructions always include a rule that the case can only be decided on information presented in court during the trial. Jury members are not supposed to research the case themselves or consider things they may have read on their own. 

However, if you have ever read a social media post about a crime, you will see people who are providing information about the crime. Family members of both the victim and the accused often show up and make statements. The trouble is these statements are not presented in court. They could be untrue. Because the information is not vetted in court, a jury member cannot let it impact his or her opinion.

Courts are working to prevent this from happening. While media outlets have laws telling them what they can and cannot publish or say about a crime, social media users do not. This is a new issue that may require new laws. For now, though, the actual impact is not well studied, so it is not even known if social media really is impacting fair juries. This information is for education and is not legal advice. 

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