It’s second nature for jurors to be instructed and regularly reminded to avoid reading and watching the news while they are sitting in their case. And to not perform their own internet research.
Here are Michigan’s Model Civil Jury Instruction 97.21 and a portion of 2.04
M Civ JI 97.21 Caution about Publicity in Cases of Public Interest
(1) During the trial, do not read, listen to, or watch any news reports about the case. Under the law, the evidence you consider to decide the case must meet certain standards. For example, witnesses must swear to tell the truth, and the lawyers must be able to cross-examine them. Because news reports do not have to meet these standards, they could give you incorrect or misleading information that might unfairly favor one side. So, to be fair to both sides, you must follow this instruction.
(2) (Give the instruction below when recessing)
Remember, for the reasons I explained to you earlier, you must not read, listen to, or watch any news reports about this case while you are serving on this jury.
M Civ JI 2.04 Jury Must Only Consider Evidence; What Evidence Is / Prohibited Actions by Jurors
(3) (c) Research, investigations and experiments not admitted in the courtroom are not evidence. You must not do any investigations on your own or conduct any research or experiments of any kind. You may not research or investigate through the Internet or otherwise any evidence, testimony, or information related to this case, including about a party, a witness, an attorney, a court officer, or any topics raised in the case.
Some form of these pattern instructions have worked pretty well everywhere over the decades.
But, whew!, there was legal community whiplash when federal district court judge Jed Rakoff issued a written order and exhibits alerting that some deliberating jurors in the Sarah Palin v. The New York Times Company trial had received notifications on their smartphone about material trial developments.
My first reaction realized how this can so easily happen in other cases that attract media interest of any scale (national, state, or local).
And so what to do?
One approach could be a fused tweak of jury administration and jury instruction.
The jury administration tweak: Give jurors advanced instruction on how to find and disable push notifications on their smartphones.
Simply showing jurors how to find and disable their news push notifications could avoid parties and the court getting bogged down with voir dire that could take up a lot of time and that many would find invasive.
The jury instruction tweak: Charge jurors with the responsibility to disable their news push notifications and include the reminder to ignore news push notifications when reminding jurors to avoid reading/watching the news during the trial.
The solution sounds simple but, in practice, it should work!