Jury Instructions Regarding Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook

New trends in how juries are being instructed about social media have been a recurrent topic on this blog. I thought it might be interesting to let you see that those Jury instructions actually look like in the flesh.

These particular jury instructions come from a Missouri automobile-collision negligence case, Molina v. Harlan. The full instructions comprise 1641 words. (I’ve put the whole set of instructions in the Blog Law Blog library.) The portion concerning juror research or communication about the case is 335 words (so, it’s a little more than a fifth of the whole thing).

One thing that strikes me as kind of funny, right off the bat, is that even as the instructions are an attempt to stay in step with the times, they show an old-school haplessness with punctuation and capitalization. Not only do they capitalize “Internet,” but they lowercase and place in quotes “‘facebook’,” “‘myspace’,” and “‘twitter’.”

What’s up with that? Does the court think that “facebook” is some kind of slang that the young kids are using? It’s very odd.

And, of course, another sign of out-of-touchness is any reference at all to Myspace.


Your deliberations and verdict must be based only on the evidence and information presented to you in the proceedings in this courtroom. Rules of evidence and procedure have developed over many years to make sure that all parties in all cases are treated fairly and in the same way and to make sure that all jurors make a decision in this case based only on evidence allowed under those rules and which you hear or see in this courtroom. It would be unfair to the parties to have any juror influenced by information that has not been allowed into evidence in accordance with those rules of evidence and procedure, or to have a juror influenced through the opinion of someone who has not been sworn as a juror in this case and heard evidence properly presented here.

Therefore, you must not conduct your own research or investigation into any issues in this case. You must not visit the scene of any of the incidents described in this case. You must not conduct any independent research or obtain any information of any type by reference to any person, textbooks, dictionaries, magazines, the use of the Internet, or any other means about any issues in this case, or any witnesses, parties, lawyers, medical or scientific terminology, or evidence that is in any way involved in this trial. You are not permitted to communicate, use a cell phone, record, photograph, video, e-mail, blog, tweet, text, or post anything about this trial or your thoughts or opinions about any issue in this case to any other person or to the Internet, “facebook”, “myspace”, “twitter”, or any other personal or public web site during the course of this trial or at any time before the formal acceptance of your verdict by me at the end of the case.
If any of you break these rules, it may result in a miscarriage of justice and a new trial may be required.

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