Social Networking : Juror Misconduct 1

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Q: At night, our fishing vessel sank.  The captain went down with the ship, and I was rescued.  We sued the company, saying that the boat was not seaworthy, but we lost.  Four days after the jury returned the verdict, my lawyer received an e-mail from one of the jurors, accusing me of appearing in photos that reflect substance abuse, on the internet.  My lawyer has now filed, with the court, a notice of juror contact.

A: Apparently, the e-mail does not say explicitly that this juror considered information from the internet during the trial, although that is a possible interpretation.  Such extraneous information could reasonably have prejudiced a hypothetical average juror.  Therefore, the court will carry out through a painstaking investigatory process in order to protect your constitutional right to an unbiased jury.

Suppose further that an anonymous post-verdict response to a questionnaire gives the opinion that you are a party/drug animal.  Suppose further that the handwriting resembles that on a pre-selection form that this e-mailer had completed.  All in all, the court should clearly meet with the juror, and also with the jury foreperson.  The lawyers for the parties should be present throughout the questioning.

Suppose that the foreperson recalls no juror reporting anything that he might have learned from the internet and no discussion of alcohol or drug use, although she does remember that one juror had wondered aloud whether you had a Facebook page.  Suppose that the e-mailing juror explains, “After the jury duty was over and the case was decided, I did the research that you said we couldn’t do during the case.  I was very upset, to find this out, so I lashed out.”

The question before the court will be whether, during the trial or deliberations, the juror who sent the e-mail had already discovered the extraneous information.  If the court has no basis for finding the juror untruthful in answering the one key question – which is when he discovered the information – then it is likely that the court will deny your motion for a new trial.

By: Scott Baron,
Attorney at Law Advertorial

The law responds to changed conditions; exceptions and variations abound. Here, the information is general; always seek out competent counsel. This article shall not be construed as legal advice.

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