The article below highlights the challenges of keeping jurors sitting on a high profile trial away from outside information about the case. Here, one of the jurors was informed by her husband that a prosecutor in the trial had sent a tweet about the case. This particular juror was dismissed as were two others who socialized with this juror.
This leaves the court with 21 available jurors. Due to the nature of the case, the judge decided to have 12 alternates. At this stage, the 21 jurors do not know which ones will actually decide the case and which ones will be alternates.
A judge recently held that a juror's inappropriate tweets during trial were not sufficient grounds to overturn a defendant's criminal conviction for murder. The key point for the judge is that the juror did not tweet about facts in the case. However, the juror did tweet from the jury box and send tweets such as:
In my book, everybody’s guilty until proven innocent.
It will be interesting to see whether this ruling will be upheld on appeal.
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.