I read in the Washington Post today that jurors can get in trouble for looking up the meaning of words. In the case of Zacarias Moussaoui, a juror asked for a dictionary.
So far, the jury has asked only one question, requesting a dictionary. U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema denied the request, saying it would be equivalent to placing extraneous evidence in the jury room. She also warned jurors against conducting their own research, including looking up words.
Everything that I know about trial procedures and juries I learned from Law and Order, so I am in no way an expert on this. I do find the quote disturbing. Trials appear to present two opposing and biased points of view and then ask jurors to reconcile these points of view without reference to anything but what they were presented.
I know that the legal system tries to protect jurors from prejudical information, but this appears to me to be too controlling. Jurors bring a lot of knowledge into the jury room. You cannot control that unless you only select the least informed and unintelligent jurors possible.
As a scientist this strikes me as backwards. You should seek out as much information as possible. Evaluate the quality of the information. Is it reliable? Is it biased? Is it consistent?
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