Texas has embraced Zoom to conduct a virtual jury trial, showing that requests for “order in the court” look different in the COVID-19 era. Grand wooden interiors have been swapped for home offices and kitchens, with legal proceedings, like so many of our experiences over the past few months, moving online.
Virtual jury trials are uncharted territory for the American legal system. Court hearings, however, have been held using digital meetings in recent months, as
stated in an article for Reuters on May 18. This source also states that because this first jury trial is a summary jury trial, the verdict will not be binding.
This new method is not yet flawless, however. As described in a May 19 article for Yahoo! News, privacy and seclusion represent two major hurdles. Zoom calls are notoriously susceptible to “Zoombombing” by random users, which could pose a breach of confidentiality. Additionally, it is difficult to ensure that jurors are entirely focused on the tasks at hand, with the Internet serving as a massive force for distraction.
In this first virtual jury trial, one juror simply exited the frame of the camera. This action put the process on pause for over five minutes, as reported by Inside Edition on May 20.
A May 19 article for Business Insider points out that beyond these more serious downsides, replicating the courtroom atmosphere in a virtual meeting space is no simple feat. Navigating the nuances of the software, such as moving to breakout rooms instead of one large call, might be a step in the right direction.
While several causes for worry surface with this new format, the benefits are also clear. Remote jury trials allow those involved to fulfill their civic duty at a time when they might not be juggling all their usual commitments. Similarly, forging ahead with legal proceedings at home can offer peace of mind to individuals caught in financially or emotionally straining cases.
Several facets of our lives have come to a halt in the face of this pandemic. Those advocating for virtual trials believe that upholding the law, however, cannot afford to be put on the back burner during this time.
Are jury trials conducted over Zoom a fitting solution, or are the potential issues too significant to overcome? Take the poll below and let us know where your head is.
Photo by Clarisse Meyer via Unsplash
How do you feel about jury duty from your living room?
not the best route