Laying Down The Law: Courts Push To Keep Jurors From Doing Outside Research

By Jeff Neumeyer

November 5, 2013 Updated Nov 5, 2013 at 6:53 PM EDT

INDIANA (21ALIVE) --- An Allen County jury convicted suspended Indianapolis police officer David Bisard on nine criminal counts Tuesday, in connection with a fatal crash from 2010 where Bisard killed a motorcyclist and seriously injured two others while he was drunk and on duty.

The jury deliberation process almost fell apart before it ever started.

A juror was dismissed Monday, when it came to light he'd been doing outside research, and was telling his colleagues what he dug up on the case.

The courts take great pains to try and keep this very scenario from happening.

Allen County Judge John Surbeck not only tossed the juror in question, but he interviewed all the others to make sure what had been discussed in the jury room didn't unduly influence their perception of the evidence.

Judges give various instructions to jurors throughout a trial.

One they don't mess around with is the admonition that they not watch or read news reports about the case on their own time, and that they conduct no Google searches about the defendant or the circumstances of the incident.

Allen Superior Court Judge Wendy Davis says nothing good comes from such fishing expeditions, because in a trial, it's only supposed to be about the exhibits the jurors see, and the testimony they hear within the four walls of the courtroom.

" If you hear evidence in a case and then you go off and do your own research, that research is not part of the case, and who knows what you can...you know there's all kinds of research out there," Judge Davis said.

" Somebody is being charged on a dealing cocaine charge and a juror Googles that person and finds out that they have previous dealing convictions, they're going to be much more likely to convict that person, based solely on those past convictions, other than what they're hearing during the course of the trial," said Fort Wayne defense attorney William Lebrato.

The kind of situation Lebrato referred to could have impacted the Bisard trial as well.

Earlier this year, Bisard was arrested following another crash, where he allegedly was driving drunk.

Jurors “Googling” Bisard's name would have seen those stories, and quite possibly would have been prejudiced by those accounts.

Even if you sequester a jury in a hotel, the panel members could still sneak peaks at information on their smartphones, so controlling this problem is not easy.

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