March 17, 2009

Connectivity, Trial Practices and Information [2:08 pm]

And I thought it was hard trying to make students understand that Wikipedia is not a reliable source: Mistrial by iPhone - Juries’ Web Research Upends Trials (pdf)

Last week, a juror in a big federal drug trial in Florida admitted to the judge that he had been doing research on the case on the Internet, directly violating the judge’s instructions and centuries of legal rules. But when the judge questioned the rest of the jury, he got an even bigger shock.

Eight other jurors had been doing the same thing. The federal judge, William J. Zloch, had no choice but to declare a mistrial, wasting eight weeks of work by federal prosecutors and defense lawyers.

“We were stunned,” said the defense lawyer, Peter Raben, who was told by the jury that he was on the verge of winning the case. “It’s the first time modern technology struck us in that fashion, and it hit us right over the head.”

It might be called a Google mistrial. The use of BlackBerrys and iPhones by jurors gathering and sending out information about cases is wreaking havoc on trials around the country, upending deliberations and infuriating judges.

Later: Letters to the editor (pdf)

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“Family Guy” Success [11:54 am]

“Family Guy” wins court battle over song (pdf)

Creators of the U.S. television show “Family Guy” did not infringe copyright when they transformed the song “When You Wish Upon a Star” for comical use in an episode, a U.S. judge ruled on Monday.

[...] U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts ruled that the lyrics and tone of the song used in “Family Guy” were “strikingly different.”

The judge also said it was fair for it to be imitated for humorous effect since the music publisher had benefited from the songs association with other more “wholesome” shows like “Pinocchio.”

“It is precisely that beneficial association that opens the song up for ridicule by parodists seeking to take the wind out of such lofty, magical, or pure associations,” she said.

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