In U.S. v Ganias, defendant-appellant Stavros M. Ganias appealed from a judgment convicting him of tax evasion. Ganias challenged his conviction on two grounds. First, he argued that his Fourth Amendment rights were violated when the Government copied three of his computer hard drives pursuant to a search warrant and then retained files beyond the scope of the warrant for more than two-and-a-half years. Next, he argued that his right to a fair trial was violated when, during the trial, a juror posted comments about the case on his Facebook page and “friended” another juror. The 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the defendant's second argument but found that the first argument had merit and thus vacated the defendant's conviction. In rejecting the second argument the court wrote the following:
A juror who “friends” his fellow jurors on Facebook, or who posts comments about the trial on Facebook, may, in certain circumstances, threaten a defendant's Sixth Amendment right to an impartial jury. Those circumstances, however, are not present here. The district court inquired into the matter and credited Juror X's testimony that he deliberated impartially and in good faith. The district judge's credibility determination was not clearly erroneous, and thus she did not abuse her discretion in denying the motion for a new trial.
The court of appeals then went on to recommend that trial judges provide more specific instructions to jurors to prevent similar behavior in the future.
I know that many of you use cell phones, Blackberries, the internet and other tools of technology. You also must not talk to anyone about this case or use these tools to communicate electronically with anyone about the case. This includes your family and friends. You may not communicate with anyone about the case on your cell phone, through e-mail, Blackberry, iPhone, text messaging, or on Twitter, through any blog or website, through any internet chat room, or by way of any other social networking websites, including Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, and YouTube...
During your deliberations, you must not communicate with or provide any information to anyone by any means about this case. You may not use any electronic device or media, such as a telephone, cell phone, smart phone, iPhone, Blackberry or computer; the internet, or any internet service, or any text or instant messaging service; or any internet chat room, blog, or website, such as Facebook, My Space, LinkedIn, YouTube or Twitter, to communicate to anyone any information about this case or to conduct any research about this case until I accept your verdict.