Juror Has To Write Essay As Punishment For Commenting On Case Via Facebook

from the write-this-100-times-on-the-blackboard dept

We've written many, many times about how technology is invading the courtroom in ways that courts still aren't entirely prepared to handle. Social networking sites are definitely becoming an issue. There was the juror who Twittered during a trial, and almost led to a retrial. There was the juror who sent a MySpace message to the defendant. But, of course, the social network that pops up all the time with juries is Facebook. There was the case where jurors became Facebook friends with each other, and another where a juror asked her friends on Facebook, whether she should go with guilty/not guilty. In a lot of cases, these users are just using Facebook/Twitter/MySpace the way they normally would -- as an informal way of communication. But that doesn't mean judges have to like it.

In the latest such story, a woman who joked on Facebook that she was "gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're GUILTY," wasn't just kicked off the jury, but ordered to write a five-page essay on "the constitutional right to a fair trial," and ordered to pay $250.

Perhaps most interesting of all, however, is how this all came to light. Apparently, the 17-year-old son of the lawyer for the defendant found the comment on Facebook, told his father, who brought it to the court's attention. Kids these days...


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  1.  
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    greenbird (profile), Sep 7th, 2010 @ 10:26pm

    Focus of the Essay

    I'd focus the essay on how out of touch the vast majority of judges are with modern technology and how it's used for social interaction in the modern world.

     

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  2.  
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    Pixelation, Sep 7th, 2010 @ 10:50pm

    Re: Focus of the Essay

    *Facepalm*

    I'd focus the essay on how out of touch with reality people can be, especially when using Facebook.
    The judge ought to make her write an apology 500 times on her Facebook page as well.
    If I (God forbid) ever end up as a defendant in a jury trial I hope I don't have jurors like this clueless (and perhaps mean)woman.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous, Sep 7th, 2010 @ 11:02pm

    Perhaps the judge should have ordered her to write a chain email apologising.
    Perhaps the first genuinely useful one in the history of chain emails, ending with
    If you don't pass this on to 5 people in your address book, within 12 hours, I'll be spending a week in prison for contempt of court.

     

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  4.  
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    Pontifex (profile), Sep 7th, 2010 @ 11:30pm

    Re:

    But then nobody would pass it on.

     

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  5.  
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    Sarah Black (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 2:19am

    So the 17-year-old son of the lawyer for the defendant just happened to find the comment on Facebook... or was he searching for "dirt" to dig up on any of the juror's by searching their names on Facebook/Google. "Dirt" for, you know, a mistrial of some sort?

    Im sure that by not having a mistrial, this outcome is somewhat better. But by fining the juror and having an essay written, is in my opinion, a bit over the top.

     

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  6.  
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    Rob, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 2:50am

    Re: Re: Focus of the Essay

    I think the judge should have thanked her and sent her on her way for disclosing that she was a useless juror. If she hadn't posted on FB she's have held the same opinions and influenced the jury.

    He's just punishing her for doing online what the other jurors were already doing with their spouses and friends.

     

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  7.  
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    abc gum, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 4:41am

    Re:

    "But by fining the juror and having an essay written, is in my opinion, a bit over the top."

    Perhaps a contempt charge would be more in line with established protocol.

     

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  8.  
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    bob, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 5:21am

    Wouldn't it be interesting

    If the juror came back with a defense of jury nullification for her essay?

     

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  9.  
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    Ian (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 5:25am

    A bit misleading...

    The issue wasn't that she'd commented on Facebook, so much as the fact that she'd pre-decided the case, which destroys that "presumption of innocence" thing that our judicial system relies on. All Facebook did here was make it easier to find out/prove that she'd pre-decided.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 6:21am

    I have been a juror member. You aren't supposed to talk to anyone about what the hell you are deciding upon. I can understand why and I know dumb people won't follow the rules anyways... but we have rules dang gum it!

     

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  11.  
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    average_joe (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 6:47am

    The new Pattern Jury Instructions we use at the federal courthouse here specifically mention not to talk about the case on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Jurors usually giggle when the judge reads that part. I think that's a good thing, but I'm not sure.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 7:33am

    important detail missing

    There's an important detail of this story that you've omitted: the judge wasn't mad because the "gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're GUILTY," was made on Facebook, but rather because it was made before the defense had the opportunity to present its case.

    To the judge, the juror was essentially admitting that they'd made up their mind already and wouldn't listen to the defense, which sounds like contempt of court to me.

     

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  13.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 7:40am

    Re: Re: Re: Focus of the Essay

    You're right, but I think for the wrong reasons. If I understand correctly, the harm wasn't so much that she Facebooked that she thought the defendant was guilty, (though, that is wrong, too) but that she facebooked it before she heard the defense's arguments.

    So, you're right that she did everyone a favor by getting herself ousted, and you're right that many jurors do this and never get punished for it but it wasn't just because she talked about the case but that she made up her mind before weighing all the facts of the case.

     

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    Hugh Mann (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 8:57am

    Re: A bit misleading...

    It's both, actually. Jurors are clearly admonished to not discuss the case at all outside of the deliberation room. Not even among themselves in the courthouse hallway during a recess.

    Actually, when I served on a jury many years ago, I tried to avoid making a decision early, but what I found was that my opinion was sort of like a meter dial on which the indicator needle would swing back and forth between guilty and not-guilty, depending on the latest evidence/testimony being presented. I was a bit concerned that I might be unfair to the defendant by doing that, but gave it a lot of thought and decided this was "natural", and that the most important part was my preparedness to hear both sides and take all the evidence into account. If my path wavered back and forth before making a final decision, that was OK, as long as the final decision took into account everything.

    I also was impressed that my fellow jurors really did seem to take the whole thing very seriously. I didn't always agree with where they were coming from on various issues, and jury deliberation sure demonstrates that different life experiences can color one's perceptions in interesting ways. But, overall, everybody treated the whole thing seriously.

    HM

     

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  15.  
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    Capri, Sep 8th, 2010 @ 9:22am

    This really has nothing to do with Facebook as the main focus. I don't know why people always make like it's such shocking news whenever social networks are even a teeny bit involved. This woman got caught acting like an immature twit about something she had no right to be treating this way, and she could've helped to get someone wrongly convicted. No, she shouldn't write a chain letter as some commentor mentioned above. Writing that essay isn't over the top. If I was the judge, I'd order her banned from jury duty again for at least 10 years. By then she might've grown up a little and had plenty of time to think of how her immaturity could've cost someone else hard time in prison. Who cares if it was discovered on Facebook? What matters here is that she was found out at all. How many others aren't?

     

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  16.  
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    The Infamous Joe (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 9:31am

    Re:

    If I was the judge, I'd order her banned from jury duty again for at least 10 years.

    ...so you want *more* people to do this?

     

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  17.  
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    Hugh Mann (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 10:11am

    Re:

    Well, I wouldn't ban anyone from jury service unless there were some other service alternative - like shoveling out the police stables (for those communities that have mounted police, of course) for an equivalent period of time.

    That should go for EVERYONE who gets out of jury duty for anything other than a hardship.

    HM

     

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  18.  
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    Hugh Mann (profile), Sep 8th, 2010 @ 10:17am

    Re: important detail missing

    Yes, that's important, but the timing is not the only issue. Since jurors are not supposed to discuss the case AT ALL outside of the deliberation room, the fact that she posted ANYTHING about it is a problem - regardless of who had or had not had their turn at bat.

    Jurors are not supposed to be discusing the case, contacting anybody involved with the case, conducting their own investigation (e.g., visiting the crime scene on their own), talking to the press, etc., etc., etc. After the trial, they can say/do whatever they want, but until they are released, they're supposed to closed off to the world outside that courtroom (as far as the case is concerned).

    That's one reason why some juries get sequestered - to make sure there is NO contact with the outside world in particularly sensitive cases.

    HM


    HM

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    nata, Apr 8th, 2013 @ 10:09am

    Not every person who is involved in politics can be a perfect writer.
    Any person can require help in writing speeches, for example.
    But nowadays luckily it became much easier. Person involved in politics or a student from political sciences can use custom writing services to prevent any fails in this and devote more time for taking care of the other people

     

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  20.  
    identicon
    Writing services, Apr 15th, 2013 @ 8:42am

    Not everyone has high creative skills. But if you need a real professional essay and you are math person, for example, it is better to find some help from professional writers and not to lose your time.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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