Two months ago, I wrote about some of the many issues associated with jurors having iPhones (or other smartphones) in court, including jurors live-tweeting about their jury experiences. This issue got attention a few days ago thanks to NBC Today Show weatherman Al Roker. Roker is an avid user of Twitter on his iPhone and he often takes pictures with the iPhone camera and then sends them to his Twitter stream using Twitpic. If you click here, you will see many of the pictures that he has posted. Most of them are fun behind the scenes pictures from the set of the Today Show, but sometimes he will take pictures elsewhere, such as these two of the Apple Store on Fifth Avenue near Central Park.
Last Thursday, Roker appeared for jury duty and, while waiting in the jury lounge, decided to upload some pictures taken with his iPhone to Twitter. Although taking pictures during a trial, especially of jurors, is definitely a no-no, Roker didn't see anything wrong with posting pictures of the jury lounge, although you could see the faces of some people in there (who presumably had yet to be assigned to a case). Media outlets such as the New York Post, the New York Daily News and TMZ got wind of the tweets, resulting in some embarassment for Roker. He removed the pictures from his Twitter stream (although you can still view them on those media sites to which I just linked), but his Twitter stream still contains these posts about the incident:
6:11am Well, it's Thursday and after a few wxcasts, I'm off to Jury duty dowtown. But before i go, here's TODAY"s Tweather
6:44am I'm going for the free lunch
7:44am hafta be there at 8:45
[Tweets deleted containing pictures]
10:32am So everyone is clear, I am NOT taking pictures in the courtroom. I am in the jury lounge. So folks need to lighten up.
10:32am I'm not breaking laws...just trying to share the experience of jury duty. One that I think is important and everyone should take part in
10:34am Therre is something very cool about being here
11:04am And to be clear, no court official told me it was ok to take pictures, just that you couldn't take pictures in the court room.
11:37am Heading to a courtroom. No pictures
3:01pm Must be a slow news day. Was stalked by video-razzi from TMZ and the NY POST because I posted a pic from the jury room on Twitter.
3:06pm Whew. Learned a lesson. No, I repeat, no court personnel told me it was ok. Going back into the courtroom, iPhone buried deep in my bag
6:08am Well, citizens of the United States of Twitterville, it was a fun day yesterday, with jury duty and twitpicking when I shouldn't. Now onward
Notwithstanding the mini media frenzy, it seems that what Roker did was fairly innocent. Had he not been a celebrity with over 20,000 Twitter followers, there would not have been a news story. But what Roker did with his iPhone is what millions of people do every day -- write publicly about what is going on in their daily lives. Do a Twitter search for "jury duty" and you will see countless other people writing live about their jury service experiences. And it is impossible to imagine this NOT happening when you have lots of people stuck somewhere with a lot of downtime, away from friends and family, carrying smartphones with the ability to broadcast to the world whatever is on their minds.
Lawyers handling jury trials are wise to think about the implications of their jurors (and potential jurors) having iPhones and similar devices including any impact that may have on their clients getting a fair trial.
By the way, if you use Twitter, feel free to follow me at @jeffrichardson. I only tweet a few times a week so I won't flood your Twitter stream with traffic, but I often tweet when a major post goes up on iPhone J.D. or when I run across an item of interest to attorneys using iPhones.