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Judge Takes Court Docket Offline to Prevent Jurors From Accessing It During Trial

Posted May 4, 2010 5:04 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Concerned that jurors might improperly access public information from the online court docket, an Oklahoma judge ordered it taken down for the duration of the trial in a medical malpractice case.

But a mistrial still resulted, because the jurors could not agree on a verdict, reports the Tulsa World.

Tulsa County District Judge Linda Morrissey said lawyers for the parties agreed to her order, which supplemented a stern admonishment to the jury that members were not to do any research on the Internet concerning the case.

However, Joey Senat, who works at Oklahoma State University as an associate professor of journalism and is an open-government advocate, said the admonishment should have been sufficient. He also objected to the temporary removal of the docket as an infringement of the public's right to information about the trial, saying "If she is going to close off court records, she should have a compelling reason to justify it," the newspaper reports.

Although the lawyers at trial didn't object to the judge's order, they "don't represent the public's interest in those records," says Senat.

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