Trial By Myspace

When I read this description of how all sorts of tech toys could be used to prevent human interaction in the courtroom of the future, I first thought, “surely Mitch Jackson doesn’t try cases.” But apparently he does.

Weird.

The tech and legal issues are unbelievably complicated. The parties to this case are concerned that the average Orange County juror just isn’t going to be able to get a good grasp on the issues and damages.

That’s his excuse for using a jury pool that “consists of programmers and tech experts from the Silicon Valley, The East London Tech Center in the UK and from Bangalore in India.”

[T]he jurors that are selected for the VARS trial program are experts and specialists from around the world who understand the issues, evidence, and arguments of the parties. The entire trial process is more efficient, and the chance for misunderstandings leading to an incorrect verdict is almost completely avoided.

That’s not a jury trial. That’s an arbitration.

For me, I’ll be starting my jury selection using my HTC Vive 1000 (fits on my sunglasses, covers my eyes,  and offers a true enclosed 360 degree virtual view of the courtroom) while walking the beach at Strands in South Orange County, California. That’s where I do my best thinking and that’s where I’m going to start virtually connecting with my jury.

Virtually Connected, In Post-Reality

Trial By Myspace - The Digital Courtroom

Fantastic. He’ll be “virtually connecting” with his jury while his attention is divided between the beach and them. So let’s play that out a little farther. He’s wearing sunglasses and his HTC Vive 1000, and he’s talking to a jury. Either they see a lawyer walking in place wearing sunglasses and an HTC Vive 1000 (external camera?), or they see a computer-generated version of him. Either he’s walking down the beach in a suit, they see him wearing beach clothes, or — again — they see only a computer-generated version of him.

for all purposes, jury selection takes place just like it would in a traditional non-digital courtroom.

Just like it would in a courtroom, except that the panel doesn’t represent the community, and instead of having people talking and listening to each other, you have people who are distracted by other realities looking at each other through technological intermediators. There is lag — sometimes perceptible — in every conversation. If the images are not computer generated, everyone will see everyone else with their eyes hidden by goggles, through a camera, ten thousand miles of cable, and a display.

Not to worry, though,

each juror will be given and wear the VARS sensory device which will allow counsel and the judge to “sense” what the jurors are feeling and thinking.

. . . . .

The result is that the perception what the jurors think and feel is substantially higher and much more accurate.

I highly recommend reading the whole post if you have a quota of stupid stuff to read today. (In which case what are you still doing here?!?)

The Truth About Jury Trials

The jury trial — “the only anchor ever yet imagined by man by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution” — was not invented in Silicon Valley. It evolved over thousands of year. The process is not perfect, but tinkering with it risks unforeseen consequences. The parties get some say in how it goes, and it is certainly conceivable that some plaintiff-defendant pair would at some point agree to trying a case on Facebook. But at least one of them would certainly be in error: Any deviation from the process benefits one side more than the other. If I consented to a trial by social media I wouldn’t expect the State to.

Usually in jury trials we try to humanize our clients. In Jackson’s hypothetical trial he would find a corporate representative of his client whom the jury would feel for. The technologies required to create an approximation of human contact over the Internet would have the opposite effect: dehumanization.

But what about Facebook? What about Twitter? All of these toys we use to connect with each other?

Social Media: Schadenfreude “at Best”

Have you seen how people treat each other on social media? They are all dehumanizing us by getting people used to not having human contact with each other. There is a reason the Confrontation Clause requires confrontation.

The courtroom is one of the few places that modern life still tries to force us occasionally to have live contact with other human beings. A person could live alone, check out at the automatic checkout at the supermarket, microwave dinner, surf the web, go to bed, wake up, and telecommute to work. That jury summons may be the only thing requiring him to see anyone else face to face.

Jackson’s essay would be technodystopian science fiction, except that Jackson seems to be earnestly enthusiastic about it:

As you can probably tell, I’m passionate about disrupting industries and creating positive change….

Whatever happened to Second Life?

I’ll bet Jackson is big into Second Life.

2 Comments

  1. Hi, lurking IT layperson here. I’m as in love with the latest shiny tech as the next nerd, but even I see that this is a truly awful idea even in passing.

    First, we’re not at the beach, and we’re not at home playing with our cat, we’re in actual, factual court, with all of the gravity and due respect that that implies.

    And even if the virtual location was corrected, and even if we ignore the distractions that naturally come from the novelty of all of this tech, AND EVEN IF we magic away all of the connection issues and lag, it still boils down to a fancy video conference. It’s hard enough to maintain people’s attention in business meetings with their butts in their seats at the actual meeting location, let alone a conference where everyone is remoted in! I guarantee you these professionals would be gleaning random details from the video feed every few minutes to make it seem like they’re paying attention, and otherwise working on whatever it is they do from home.

    These are the same people who think that connecting your light switch to the internet is a great idea, rather than a great way to add a random number of seconds of lag to your lights and a way to lose any control when the server over the internet (which, I remind you, is best-effort i.e. no guarantees of any data actually being delivered) isn’t responding.

    These techno-fetishists and their bizarre fantasies drive me absolutely up the wall.

  2. Article spotlights the difference between people who understand the theory of jury selection as opposed to the practice of jury selection.

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