From the jury room

I am just back from two weeks on jury duty. The hours were good, lunch in Chinatown was a treat, and I was heartened by the legal process. However, as someone in the security field, one element of the experience stood out for me.

While the security guards screening everyone entering the municipal building were friendlier than those at airports, the procedure was the same. We had to pass our bags through an X-ray machine while we passed through a metal detector. So, they've got the physical security part covered.

However, once inside the building, security concerns seem to have been abandoned. Virtual security, that is.

A few times the court officer who shuffled us around requested that cell phones be turned off when we entered the court room. Makes sense. But, while that prevented interruptions from incoming calls, it didn't stop my fellow citizens from taking the devices out to make use of their 3G and Wi-Fi connections and web and text communication options.

I was surprised to witness the use of laptops and smart phones, even during the voir dire process. My fellow jurors were permitted to text away even as lawyers were questioning the jury pool. The iPhones and BlackBerries came out even from the jury box during breaks in the trial presentations.

I'm not saying my fellow jurors were revealing details of the proceedings. Likely, they were scanning headlines and checking in with the office and with loved ones. But talk about the insider threat.

Was the integrity of the judicial process breached? Who knows. Perhaps I'm being overly cautious. But, obviously there's some call for a ruling here. On a higher profile case, I can imagine tweets being fed to media outlets, or details being shared for whatever reason.

Ban cell phones and laptops from the courtroom? Let's start, at least, by monitoring their use.

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