Fairness requires that jurors learn information about a case as a corporate body in the courtroom. Only in that way can information be presented to the jury in accordance with the rules of evidence and be tested by cross-examination.14 For the integrity of the trial and to protect jurors from being influenced by accounts of the trial as filtered through third persons, the trial judge should caution the jury to avoid accounts of the proceeding that may appear in the media. At the start of each new trial day the court should inquire of the jury as to whether any member has been exposed to media accounts. If a juror says yes, the trial judge should inquire into the nature and extent of the exposure outside of the presence of the remainder of the jury.15 Juror exposure to media accounts is not presumptively prejudicial. Rather, it must be shown that the juror was unfairly influenced by the extraneous matter.16 Beyond juror exposure to news reports, jurors may come into contact with members of the media during the trial. The fact that jurors were followed around the courthouse by members of the media and that a newspaper published an article profiling of the jurors has been found not to be inherently prejudicial. Media contact will not be deemed prejudicial unless it is shown that the actions of the media caused the jurors to lose their impartiality.17
14. Smith v. State, 317 A.2d 20, 23 (Del. 1974).
15. Smith v. State, 317 A.2d 20, 23 (Del. 1974). See also Weber v. State, 547 A.2d 948, 953 (Del. 1988); White v. State, 404 A.2d 137, 139 (Del. 1979) (upon learning of potential exposure of jury to media accounts, trial judge should determine whether exposure is prejudicial); Goodyear v. State, 348 A.2d 174, 179 (Del. 1975).
16. State v. Halko, 193 A.2d 817, 832 (Del. Super. 1963), aff’d, 204 A.2d 628 (Del. 1964).
17. Lynch v. State, 588 A.2d 1138, 1140 (Del. 1991).
© 2010 David L. Finger