Saturday, January 14, 2012
JUROR ONLINE MISCONDUCT
Recently a family member of mine who is a prosecutor finished a jury trial. The jury convicted. He was talking to the jurors after the verdict and learned that one of the jurors had Googled the defendant in violation of the jury instructions. The juror learned information that had not been admitted at trial. The juror did not communicate what was learned was to the other jurors. Now, following his prosecutorial duty, my family member disclosed the juror’s misconduct to the judge. A new trial may well be granted. All the time, money and stress expended so far is likely to go down the drain.
Preventing juror misconduct with social media is a major goal of today’s justice system. A prior post here noted the state of Washington’s Pattern Jury Instruction committee created a poster to warn jurors not to go online and access information about the case. Other courts have used sterner measures. In August, 2011, a Fort Worth, Texas trial judge held a juror in a civil auto accident case in contempt for trying to friend the defendant and discussing the case on Facebook when the jury instructions forbid the jurors from discussing the case online. The juror was dismissed and after that he posted a message to the defendant on his Facebook that said in part “. . . I guess you know what it feels like to be prosecuted too. Good luck with everything.”
What other measures can be taken to prevent this form of juror misconduct?