It is uncommon for judges to punish a juror. It is really uncommon for judges to punish a juror for talking to the media. It is really, really uncommon for judges to punish a juror for talking to the media after that juror has already been dismissed from the case. However, it does happen as evidenced by the prosecution Marla Lloyd.
Lloyd was a juror in the death penalty trial of Shaw Ford. However, she was dismissed from the case prior to the jury reaching a verdict. Sometime after the verdict but before sentencing Lloyd spoke to the media about the case. Her actions, according to the prosecution, violated the judge's gag order for all jurors. As a result, she is now being prosecuted for contempt of court.
Loyd's prosecution is troubling for a variety of reasons. First, what is the purpose of her prosecution? Put differently, what does the prosecution or judge hope to obtain with a conviction? Second, why isn't this prosecution an infringement on Loyd's 1st Amendment rights? Third, how far can a judge go in restricting others from discussing things that occur in a courtroom? Could a judge tell jurors or prospective jurors that they may never talk about the case? It appears to me that once Lloyd was released from jury duty, the judge no longer had jurisdiction or authority to regulate what she said.
The article below examines the financial challenges of being a juror on a case that lasts for an extended amount of time. The net result is that you have certain people who just can't serve because of the financial hit they will receive. This in turn leads many juries to be made up of either very old people who have retired or young people who have yet to begin their careers.
A Memphis juror was sentenced to 10 days in jail (9 days were suspended) for communicating with a criminal defendant via Facebook. Interestingly, despite the social media interaction, the juror along with the other members of the jury still found the defendant guilty of aggravated robbery. To read more about this case go here.
An Iowa appellate court (State v. Webster) overturned a defendant's murder conviction because of improper conduct by a juror to include interacting with the victim's mother on Facebook. Interestingly, it was the defendant's wife who discovered the Facebook information.
The third witness was Webster’s wife, who testified she had heard from a number of people “that there was a particular juror that was discussing things and who had actually said . . . that she knew the Frisbie family, but they never asked her directly, so . . . she didn’t say anything.” Webster’s wife testified she looked at Juror’s comments and activity on Facebook, and Webster’s wife printed the pages she found where Juror had commented or “Like[d]” a post posted on Facebook by Frisbie’s mother.3 The printed pages were offered and admitted into evidence.
The latest mishap involved a sequestered juror who brought a laptop into his hotel room. The juror claims that he only checked sports scores; however, the judge seemed somewhat dubious of that explanation. Regardless of why the juror accessed his laptop, this trial further illustrates the challenges facing the legal system with respect to addressing juror misconduct in the Digital Age. To read more about how to address those challenges go here. To learn about prior juror issues in the Goodman trial go here.
This is the second time that I have seen a death row conviction overturned because of a juror's improper use of the Internet. The first case, Dimas-Martinez v. Arkansas, involved a juror who could not stop tweeting about the trial. The juror's conduct in this latest case from Pennsylvania seems far more problematic. Here, the juror researched the defendant online and discovered his past criminal convictions. The juror then discussed this information with other jurors.
A defendant who was recently convicted of aggravated robbery has been charged with improper influence of a juror. Apparently, the defendant, during his trial for aggravated robbery, was communicating with one of his jurors via Facebook. Interestingly, despite his Facebook interactions with the juror he was still found guilty, which makes me wonder whether this concern over jurors and social media is a bit overblown.
A former juror's comment that the death sentence he handed down eight years ago was "what that nigger deserved" does not justify habeas relief, the 11th Circuit ruled. [Fults v. GDCP Warden] Kenneth Fults has been on death row in Georgia since 1997 after he pleaded guilty to the 1996 murder and kidnapping of his next-door neighbor, Cathy Bounds. Fulton invaded Bounds' home, wrapped electrical tape around her head, put a pillow over her and shot her in the back of the head five times. Jurors found it an aggravating circumstance that the murder took place during a kidnapping and that it was outrageous. It was not until April 2005, eight years after sentencing, that Fults claimed in an amended state habeas corpus petition that the "improper biases of jurors ... infected their deliberations," causing them to "improperly prejudg[e]" his case. In support of that claim, Fults provided a handwritten, signed and notarized affidavit from one of the sentencing jurors, Thomas Buffington, dated two days before the petition was filed. "I don't know if he ever killed anybody, but that nigger got just what should have happened," Buffington wrote. "Once he pled guilty, I knew I would vote for the death penalty because that's what that nigger deserved." Both the state court and a federal judge found the claim procedurally defaulted, and the 11th Circuit affirmed Tuesday that the claim is barred. In a footnote to the 22-page decision, the three-judge appellate panel noted that "Buffington denied having any racial prejudices" during voir dire questioning before the trial. To continue reading go here.