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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Comments on “Juror Has To Write Essay As Punishment For Commenting On Case Via Facebook”

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Pixelation says:

Re: Focus of the Essay


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.

Rob (profile) says:

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.

The Infamous Joe (profile) says:

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.

Sarah Black (profile) says:

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.

Hugh Mann (profile) says:

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.


Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Hugh Mann (profile) says:

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.



Capri (profile) says:

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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