Social Networking : Juror Misconduct 2

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Q: Two firefighters were forced to jump from the fourth floor of my apartment building, and the jury found me guilty of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment – because supposedly I knew about the unsafe electrical conditions that led to this tragedy.

Now, it turns out that a juror had attempted to contact one of the witnesses through Facebook, a social networking web site.  After deliberations began, in the late evening at home, the juror went on to her computer and on to Facebook, as was her normal practice.  Impulsively, she typed the name of the witness.  The juror came across his Facebook page which contained a small photo.  She sent a “friend request” with no message and received no response to this request.

In a post-trial hearing, the juror testified that as soon as she sent the friend request she knew she had made a mistake.  She understood that it was wrong to try to contact anyone involved in the case, before the verdict.  The juror also testified that during the trial she visited no other website in connection with the fire, the case or the witnesses.  She recalled possibly telling one or more jurors about her mistake, but there was no extensive discussion.  This was not on her mind during deliberations.

A: The juror’s conduct was unquestionably a serious breach of her obligations as a juror and must have been a clear violation of the court’s instructions.  The fundamental right of a fair trial cannot be guaranteed if jurors fail to take their obligations seriously and disregard their oaths to follow the court’s rules.

However, before a court can set aside a verdict based on a juror’s violation of a rule, the misconduct must have prejudiced a substantial right of the defendants.  From what you tell me, it appears that the juror’s misconduct was not so egregious as to invalidate the verdict.  Your attorney will have to seek some other grounds, if any there be.

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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