A major rise in the use of handheld devices such as the Blackberry and iPhone is becoming a problem in courtrooms across the country. A mistrial was recently declared in a major criminal drug trial in federal district court in Florida, after the judge learned that nine of the jurors had used their handheld devices to improperly conduct research on the case on the Internet. In another case in Arkansas, a $12.6 million judgment was put into question after the losing party learned that a juror had sent updates via Twitter during the trial.
The use of handheld devices by jurors to conduct research or engage in improper communications via handheld devices poses serious concerns to the well-established and time-tested methods used at trial, where jurors are provided with specific legal instructions on the case by the judge and are generally prohibited from communicating or deliberating about the case with outside persons. This concern has received extensive media treatment in recent weeks. One good article on the issue can be found here.