Juror Didn't Disclose MySpace Friendship With Defendant… Because It Was Just MySpace

from the talk-about-damning-myspace dept

Here’s a fun one. An appeals court in West Virginia has granted a new trial to a defendant because one of the jurors failed to disclose that she was a “friend” on MySpace with the defendant and had sent him a message during the trial. The message itself was mostly meaningless (“I can tell ya that God has a plan for you and your life…” etc. and even mentioned “Hey, I don’t know you very well”), but the juror never bothered to mention that she knew the defendant at all, let alone well enough to be a MySpace connection. When asked why, she answered:

I knew in my heart that I didn’t know him . . . I should have at least said that . . . he was on MySpace, which really [wasn’t] important, I didn’t think.

Ouch for MySpace. Either way, a new trial has been ordered, and yet again questions revolving around social media in the courtroom need to be tackled in court.

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Comments on “Juror Didn't Disclose MySpace Friendship With Defendant… Because It Was Just MySpace”

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Rajio (user link) says:


I’ve got to side with the juror here, Just because they’re ‘friends’ on myspace has no bearing of any kind of actual knowledge or relationship. Hell, I have ‘friends’ on social networks who ive never met, dont know anybody that I know, and we’ve never once spoken. I could meet someone today and find out that they’re my ‘friend’ on some social network already and I wouldn’t even know it.

It absolutely does not establish a prior relationship at all.

BBT says:

Re: Perspective

That she contacted the defendant does, though. It may not be much of a relationship, but they’re not supposed to have any relationship at all. Don’t get confused by the terminology of “friend”. Clearly, they weren’t real friends. But they aren’t even supposed to be acquaintances. They’re supposed to be complete strangers.

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Perspective

I don’t think that’s correct. To ‘know’ someone in a public sense is different from actually knowing or even being acquainted with one another.

For instance, attorneys that belong to the same social clubs don’t disqualify themselves in cases, and jurors aren’t disqualified because they ‘know’ a celebrity or someone whose arrest and/or alleged crime was well publicized.

Last, what do you think they do in smaller areas? Ship people in from the next county? 😛

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Perspective

True you can “know of someone” but you need to make this clear during the jury selection process. Even if it’s just a dude you once danced with at a club.

We are talking about jurors not Attorneys, they and judges pretty much all know each other.

“Ship people to another county?”
Yes, it’s called change of venue in the event the defendant believes there are to many people that know him in a given area and would not be given a fair trail given his/her rep.

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Perspective

You don’t request (or get) a change of venue when everyone knows you. You get a change of venue when everyone knows you and is unable to be fair and impartial to you. So if your case was widely publicized, or you’re biologically related to most of the jurors, you’d get a change in venue.

But not because you know them. That’s just silly.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Perspective

If you live in a big area and know everyone, you might know 1,000 people, but if you live in a smaller area and know everyone, you might know 100. There’s a lot more than 100 people in the county, and in those smaller population areas, there is still a good amount of land area to cover.

Having enough knowledge of someone that you can reach out and talk to them like this juror did absolutely requires disclosure. The attorneys might ignore the relationship if they feel it’s insignificant enough, but that’s up to the attorneys, ya know, those that know the law…

BBT says:

Re: Re: Re: Perspective

Which is why I said it’s important that she sent the defendant a message. It’s possible that the message could be found to not disqualify her, but probably not.

Merely being myspace “friends”, on the other hand, would not be very relevant.

The one thing we know for sure though- it wasn’t her place to decide what was relevant and what wasn’t. She should have revealed the relationship, however minor it was, and then let the court decide.

Rajio (user link) says:

Re: Re: Perspective

Yes, I see your point but them contacting eachother may not indicate a relationship – It’s likely that the juror thought nothing of ‘looking up’ the defendant (who, surprise, happened to be on their friends list!) and sending along a note. Of course that’s against the rules, but I would just hesitate to infer any sort of relationship from such contact.

Michial Thompson (user link) says:

It's not that she KNEW or didn't KNOW the defendant

The issue isn’t if she knew or didn’t know the defendant, it’s that she did not disclose the “relationship” or “contact” with the defendant.

It’s actually possible that during selection had she mentioned this that she would still have been selected. But the fact that she did not disclose this did not give them attorneys a chance to investigate the “relationship” further.

little mikee m NEVER takes the time to actually mention any details that are relevant to the situation, only mentions what furthers his little agenda. little mikee m really needs to take a few courses in journalism and writing before he goes on his little rant about “saving journalism” his type of journalism really needs to be extinguished.

AJ says:

Re: It's not that she KNEW or didn't KNOW the defendant

“The issue isn’t if she knew or didn’t know the defendant, it’s that she did not disclose the “relationship” or “contact” with the defendant.”

Mike said “but the juror never bothered to mention that she knew the defendant at all”

Did you bother to RTFA before you posted?

“little mikee m NEVER takes the time to actually mention any details that are relevant to the situation, only mentions what furthers his little agenda. little mikee m really needs to take a few courses in journalism and writing before he goes on his little rant about “saving journalism” his type of journalism really needs to be extinguished.”

Do you realize how retarded you sound? I can’t believe you posted with your real name. If your goal was to make yourself sound intelligent, you failed… badly.

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: It's not that she KNEW or didn't KNOW the defendant

Funny that you take what is possibly the most agenda-less post in the whole Techdirt (does Mike agree or disagree that MySpace “doesn’t matter”? He doesn’t even say!) yet you manage to make a comment that “lil’ mikee m has an agenda!”.

Seriously, if the post said “Mayor of Wisconsin was seen while walking into a grocery store” you’ll scream “agenda!”. And even if you don’t, we all know you’ll manage to say “lil’ mikee m” at least twice.

abc gum says:

“During voir dire, she never acknowledged a connection with either the defendant or with other witnesses”

It is not entirely clear (in the linked article) whether she was asked a direct question regarding any relationship with the defendant, isn’t this standard court procedure?

One would think that she should have made it known and then it would be up to the court to decide if she should sit on the jury.

Berenerd (profile) says:

I know Jane Doe!

Yeah she works at the convience store I goto all the time. I say hi to her and she smiles. I had no idea she was the one who killed that bus full of nuns! Why can’t I be part of the jury in this case?

If not for the corrispondence she might have had a leg to stand on. I agree, I have friended people on Facebook and myspace because we share some similar interest (some of which is an online MUD but thats not important). I don’t talk to them person to person. we might share posts in an online forum but I don’t know them. Once I send them a personal message (more than one in this case wishing them the blessing of god and so on) that leads me to believe she was more than just a random person she had similar interests with. She was incorrect in her opinnion of weather or not it was important. Sorry, I would tell the court “yeah I have them as a friend on my list in facebook but I have never talked with them on a personal level” and then let the court deside if it means you are disqualified or not. It isn’t your opinion that matters but the court’s. The information should have been disclosed.

Yakko Warner says:

Non Sequitur

There was a Non Sequitur comic a while back with a main character in a bar celebrating the fact that he just hit 1,000 Facebook friends. The guy sitting next to him asks, “How many of these friends would help you move or loan you money if you needed it?”, to which the first guy suddenly looks dejected.

Pretty much sums up my view of things. Where I’ve “known” lots of people online in various online forums, and try to treat them respectfully, I barely consider any of those relationships “real” unless I’ve met them in person.

Kilroy says:

Re: Non Sequitur

.. and even when I have met them in person, I don’t automagically consider them friends ….

She probably should have resisted the temptation to contact him for the duration of the trial. And then she could have an argument … “Oh was I linked to him in some less-than-meaningful way through a social media site. Well, that isn’t saying much …”

Robin16 (profile) says:

My husband served on the jury of a high profile gang murder case in Los Angeles. He disclosed immediately that he knew one of the witnesses who had worked for a sub-contractor on one of his job sites. Nothing happened and my husband was elected as the jury foreman. No case there. This juror might be facing criminal charges herself for contacting the defendant.

West Virginia Juror Instructions:


Talking With Parties or Lawyers: Jurors should not talk with any of the parties, witnesses or lawyers during the trial. It may give the appearance that something unfair is happening.


From a West Virginia County

Jurors get instructions.

In almost all Virginia jury trials, however, the jury goes home at the end of each day and is simply told not to discuss the case with anyone nor to watch, read, or listen to news reports about the case. It is essential that you follow these instructions.

During the trial my husband served on he didn’t even tell me what the case was about! Why? Because of JURY INSTRUCTIONS not to discuss the case with anyone let alone sending the defendant ANY sort of message! It was during the holidays and took a one week break for Christmas, His mood was SOMBER. It wasn’t til I heard the verdict announced on the news and my husband came home that he told me that was the trial he was serving on.

Contacting the DEFENDANT in ANY way is a NO NO no matter how you look at it, MySpace or not! I can’t believe anyone commenting here would say “poor juror”. No, STUPID juror for going against jury instructions jeopardizing the case and costing the tax-payers money for a new trial!

Here read the document. They weren’t friends on MySpace UNTIL she sent him a message!


Hey, I dont know you very well But I think you could use some advice! I havent been in your shoes for a long time but I can tell ya that God has a plan for you and your life. You might not understand why you are hurting right now but when you look back on it, it will make perfect sence. I know it is hard but just remember that God is perfect and has the most perfect plan for your life. Talk soon!5

The jury CONVICTED him and then the guy gets a new trial because she’s such a DUFUS she’s sending him advice?!!!

Ye Gads!

5Juror Hyre told investigators that she wrote the message because she heard Appellant was going through a divorce and wanted to provide him with some advice. However, according to Appellant, he had been divorced for more than two years.


For his part, Appellant avers that he did not then recognize Juror Hyre to be the same “Amber” who wrote to him on MySpace. Apparently, “Amber” from MySpace did not include her last name and, according to Appellant, Juror Hyre looked very different from her photograph posted on the website. As indicated above, Appellant alerted the trial court to Juror Hyre’s MySpace message just following the verdict, having first learned that Juror Hyre and “Amber” were the same person only a short time earlier.6


“Mrs. Hyre was questioned about her friendship with Mr. Dellinger and she stated that she knew him and had spoke to him only to say ‘hi’ in passing and that they used to live in the same apartment complex together.” It is undisputed that, during voir dire, Juror Hyre never indicated to the trial court that she knew Appellant; had ever spoken to him “in passing”; or that they used to live in the same apartment complex.7

YE GADS!!!! Sorry guys, but she didn’t fess up to ever “knowing” him in any way during jury selection either. A NO NO!

Does anyone here still feel sorry for this DUFUS who didn’t do a single thing right as a juror?

Sure hope not.

Mojo says:

first of all, I’m surprised that TD readers are admitting to having friends on social sites they don’t know and “didn’t even realize” were on their list.

really? It’s one thing to not know them very well (a friend of a friend, etc), but why are you accepting friend requests from people you don’t know AT ALL? Just trying to up your friend count? Sad.

And if that were the case here, maybe I’d agree that, on a legal level, a MySpace friend really counts as a prior relationship… but the fact that SHE EMAILED HIM DURING THE TRIAL automatically should have the case thrown out. It’s all kinds of improper for a juror and defendant to have ANY contact during a trial!!

And her message would have spooked me and seems to infer she’s made up her mind already… “god has a plan for you.”

Actually, it sounds like she’s a Cylon to me. And I don’t want no frakkin’ skin job sitting on MY jury!

The Groove Tiger (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Welcome Humans!

We have come to visit you in peace and with goodwill!

Cylons may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
Cylons have seen things you people wouldn’t believe.
Cylons are Your Plastic Pal Who’s Fun To Be With.
Cylons have shiny metal posteriors which should not be bitten.

And they have a plan.

Rose M. Welch (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Umm… So I herd about this company called Zynga?

The point is that plenty of people play social games, and they friend lots of people that they will never meet, and never be friends with because it’s beneficial to the game.

I’m not saying that her lack of disclosure is okay; I’m just saying that it’s perfectly normal to have lots of ‘friends’ that aren’t your friends.

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