Jury Duty Service in Washington State

WARNING

If you are currently serving on a jury, DO NOT READ ANY FURTHER. You must comply with the judge’s instructions in all cases: You are not to research any of the attorneys, case information, parties involved, witnesses, or anything else about the case that you are charged with deciding.  Jurors are not supposed to seek information outside of the courtroom. They are required to reach a verdict based on only the facts that are presented at trial as determined by the judge’s ruling on admissibility.  Jurors are not supposed to gather evidence or seek information related to the case on their own. It is very likely that the judge has ruled that there is certain evidence or information in the case that should be excluded from the jury’s consideration because it is unfairly prejudicial and/or not legally relevant to the issues that the jury must decide in the case.

WARNING: If the Judge discovers that you have visited a website to perform research in the case, or to learn more about the parties or their attorneys, during the course of the trial the Judge will likely declare a MISTRIAL.  A mistrial will cause enormous expense to the parties.  They will have to pick a new jury and try the case again.  They will have to pay their experts and/or treating healthcare providers an additional fee to appear and testify in a new trial.  The attorneys will also have to perform much more work. 

YOU ALSO COULD BE SANCTIONED BY THE COURT FOR VIOLATING A DIRECT ORDER BY THE JUDGE, AND PAY MONETARY FINES OR SERVE JAIL TIME, OR BOTH.

Please help us maintain and preserve the integrity of our criminal and civil justice system, and comply with the court’s instructions when sitting as a juror.  Thank you.

Excerpt from WPI 1.01 Advance Oral Instruction—Beginning of Proceedings

It is essential to a fair trial that everything you learn about this case comes to you in this courtroom, and only in this courtroom. You must not allow yourself to be exposed to any outside information about this case. Do not permit anyone to discuss or comment about it in your presence, and do not remain within hearing of such conversations. You must keep your mind free of outside influences so that your decision will be based entirely on the evidence presented during the trial and on my instructions to you about the law.

Until you are dismissed at the end of this trial, you must avoid outside sources such as newspapers, magazines, blogs, the internet, or radio or television broadcasts which may discuss this case or issues involved in this trial. If you start to hear or read information about anything related to the case, you must act immediately so that you no longer hear or see it. By giving this instruction I do not mean to suggest that this particular case is newsworthy; I give this instruction in every case.

During the trial, do not try to determine on your own what the law is. Do not seek out any evidence on your own. Do not consult dictionaries or other reference materials. Do not conduct any research into the facts, the issues, or the people involved in this case. This means you may not use [Google or other internet search engines] [internet resources] to look into anything at all related to this case. Do not inspect the scene of any event involved in this case. If your ordinary travel will result in passing or seeing the location of any event involved in this case, do not stop or try to investigate. You must keep your mind clear of anything that is not presented to you in this courtroom.

During the trial, do not provide information about the case to other people, including any of the lawyers, parties, witnesses, your friends, members of your family, or members of the media. If necessary, you may tell people (such as your employer) that you are a juror and let them know when you need to be in court. If people ask you for more details, you should tell them that you are not allowed to talk about the case until it is over.

I want to emphasize that the rules prohibiting discussions include your electronic communications. You must not send or receive information about anything related to the case by any means, including by text messages, e-mail, telephone, internet chat, blogs, or social networking web sites.

In short, do not communicate with anyone, by any means, concerning what you see or hear in the courtroom, and do not try to find out more about anything related to this case, by any means, other than what you learn in the courtroom. These rules ensure that the parties will receive a fair trial.

If you become exposed to any information other than what you learn in the courtroom, that could be grounds for a mistrial. A mistrial would mean that all of the work that you and your fellow jurors put into this trial will be wasted. Re-trials are costly and burdensome to the parties and the public. Also, if you communicate with others in violation of my orders, you could be fined or held in contempt of court.

After you have delivered your verdict, you will be free to do any research you choose and to share your experiences with others.