There has been much talk about the use of blogs for monitoring public opinion and shaping trial strategy during the Casey Anthony trial. While that may be a useful strategy for high profile cases, you may wonder what impact the internet will have in your everyday run of the mill case. It has a very real impact, just in a different way.
The dangers of the internet are becoming so pervasive that it is now imperative that you understand the importance of doing internet research. Jurors are internet-savvy (even some of the older ones) and you can almost guarantee that at least one of your jurors will be going home researching every aspect of your case online.
If that one juror finds something harmful to your case, they will bring it up in deliberations and impact the rest of the jurors.
Jurors will research you, your firm, your experts, your client, and even medical terms or other issues related to your case. They will go on facebook, myspace, google, twitter, etc. They will research arguments in your case – whether a 5mph collision can cause brain damage. Whether brain damage can occur without a concussion. Whether there really is a policy that doctors have to do a differential diagnosis and rule out the most dangerous possibility first. Guaranteed, they will find articles and websites that dispute your claims and because the juror found them online, they think the sources are neutral and therefore more trustworthy than your experts.
What they find on their own online will trump your evidence.
So what do you do about it? You need to know what is out there. You cannot undermine what you do not know. Either hire someone skilled at internet research or find someone in your office who is young and can dig deep on search engines. That person needs to set aside multiple hours to research every aspect of your case and every person involved. You need to know what is out there so that you can mention it during trial. Know what arguments there are against you and have your experts explain the faults in those arguments so that when jurors come across it, they know why not to believe it. These days, you can lose a case because of jurors doing due diligence to research on their own. Your loss may have nothing to do with what goes on in the courtroom. Recognize this danger and devote time and effort to online research – even before accepting a case. The costs of avoiding it may be high.