Defense lawyers using Facebook to identify jurors

Uncovered by a local paper 2 days ago (article in French).

In Québec at least, jurors are supposed to be anonymous. Lawyers have access to a large list of names at the beginning of the selection process, but that list is taken away afterwards. Once the jury is selected, lawyers are not allowed to know the jurors’ names and details. The judge refers to them by number. Nobody can take pictures of the jury box.

Smartphones are allowed in the courtroom (no ringing, no pictures, etc.). Many of these have Facebook installed.

Facebook can suggest friends based on the fact that they spend a lot of time in close proximity.

So, after a few days of trial, the lawyer or one of their associates, having spent a lot of time in the same room as the jury, can go into Facebook’s “People you may know” section and look for the faces of the jurors. They can then find out their names and occupations, and then use other tools to dig into their past and look for ways to influence them, or to disqualify them.

Facebook has specifically denied using location data for friend recommendations (outside of a small group, short term experiment circa 2015). Does the article offer any proof that these are suggestions based on proximity rather than, say, bored jurors searching for the lawyer’s Facebook profiles?

The article considers that location is the only explanation, but acknowledges that Facebook has denied that location is used.

Assuming Facebook is telling the truth, your suggestion would make a lot of sense. Many people are unaware that looking up somebody on Facebook can add a “People you may know” suggestion for both persons.

Before they are selected, the lawyers know the jurors’ names and details?

This sounds like a new way to get out of jury duty.

Translating the article:

So the attorneys get the list, but when they are selecting the jury, they can’t match up the names with the people they are selecting?

It’s very confusing. I don’t know the rule in Quebec, but in the United States, it is common (perhaps universal) for lawyers to research the jurors through social media and other means.
The ABA has sanctioned such conduct.

I think it would be malpractice not to.

Facebook should have, in addition to a “friends list”, an enemies list. Then it could suggest friends from the enemies of your enemies.

Curious. What’s the purpose of the lawyers having the list to begin with? Prescreening for people they may know to save calling them in for selection?

The show “Bull” is based on this idea.

In Canada, it would be malpractice to do so.

A Crown prosecutor several years ago instructed the RCMP to do background research on potential jurors.

When that came to light, the Supreme Court set aside the conviction, with the consent of the Crown:

The Crown prosecutor was fired and charged with obstruction of justice, but acquitted:

If I’m reading that case correctly, the RCMP actually interviewed and had questionnaires presented to potential jurors outside of the courtroom. That’s *way *different than googling their names.

Revisiting this…
I have only ever worked out of our primary office, but recently I put in some hours at our other office (a much smaller site with only a couple of people who use it as a base, and they generally work off-site much of the time - there’s really only one guy who is there full time). He and I were both in the office all day, but in different rooms. We were both working and didn’t really interact.

After I put in the day there, the other guy became my main Facebook friend suggestion.

The possibilities that I’ve considered are:

  • Coincidence. We’re both Facebook friends with a random assortment of co-workers and so there’s some overlap in our friends. Facebook cycles through suggesting friends-of-friends to me, and I get my confirmation bias on when his name happens to come up right when I’ve been in proximity to him. If it happened any other time, I wouldn’t have even noticed.
  • He’s looked me up. Well, darn that magnetism of mine for affecting his productivity, but he’s only human. It’s just surprising to me because he’s one of those types that have a Facebook account because that’s what you do, but isn’t what you’d call a Facebook user. Facebook stalking seems such an unlikely choice for him.
  • Proximity matching. But Facebook have specifically denied doing this.

Just to make sure nothing goes awry as the jurors are sworn, like a bloke pop up when a woman has been called.

(The lists here would also have occupation listed. If you can see that somebody has the type of job where they can’t really take time off because other people can’t just pick up the slack and it’s going to be a long trial, you can challenge (if you’ve got any left) and “let them off the hook” (they can also ask the judge to let them go, but if the judge has already said “no” and they really don’t want to be there, you can challenge and let them go). Or, sometimes counsel has prejudices against certain types of occupations and uses that information to decide whether to challenge a juror or not. Unlike the US, it’s meant to be more random as to who ends up on the jury.)

When I was called for (Canadian) jury selection, one person was excluded at the very beginning of the process for knowing some of the police officers involved in the investigation; they must have caught that at some sort of pre-screening.

This would be my guess. My own usage of Facebook sounds similar to what you describe, but I occasionally use it to look people up (usually old acquaintances or friends of friends rather than a work colleague, but same principle.

On the other hand, I don’t trust Facebook, so the third option (that they are lying about the location thing) is certainly possible.

I don’t trust FB either, all of my settings are 'Friends Only", so I’m not sure how much they’d see…as far as location, that’s public information, when I’m called for jury duty, it’s because I’m registered to vote in the my municipality…as far as occupation, I have listed as a Seinfeld-related thing, I’d love to have a lawyer ask me during jury selection, “So, Mr. BLTC, what type of latex do you sell at Vandelay Industries?”

I would not be surprised at all lawyers would use any social media platform to investigate potential jurors, after all, we’re the ones providing content on ourselves and we’re responsible for our own privacy, yes, one can get hacked by unscrupulous types, but FB stalking is usually limited to what you allow others to see…