Monday, September 19, 2011

Judges' Responses to Juror Misconduct Vary Widely: From No Consequence to 8 Months in Jail

Opinions can vary widely among judges and lawyers as to the appropriate response or sanctions (beyond mistrial) to a juror's misconduct.  Here is a sampling of responses:

1.  State v. Christian et al. in California.  The judge instructed the jurors under CALCRIM 101 that they were not to share information about the case on the Internet.  A juror posted comments on Facebook during trial.  Counsel sought access to the postings.  The issue arose whether Facebook was prohibited from disclosing the contents of the postings under the Electronic Communications Act (Title 18 USC sec. 2701).  The judge ordered the juror to execute a written consent to access to the postings for in camera review.  (Reported in Forbes magazine)

2.  In September 2010 a Detroit judge discovered a juror had been commenting on Facebook during deliberations, "it'll be fun to tell the defendant they're guilty."  The juror was ordered to pay a $250 fine and write a 5-page essay on the right to a fair trial under the 6th Amendment. (reported in the Huffington Post 9-2-2010) (also ABA Journal)

3.  FTA: Failing to Appear for jury duty is resulting in fines and arrest warrants for those jurors who fail to appear after issued an order to show cause for failing to respond to a jury summons.  Wayne County Chief Judge Timothy Kenny warned jurors of fines and threatened jail time if they failed to appear a second time for jury duty. (Reported in The Detroit News 8-17-11)

4.  In Arlington, TX, a juror in a civil trial sent a Facebook friend request to the defendant, who promptly contacted her lawyer, who then informed the judge.  Consequence?  Four counts of contempt of court and 2 days of community service. (Reported

5.  Most severe punishment found so far:  A multimillion-pound drug trial ended in a mistrial when a juror contacted the defendant on Facebook.  The juror was found in contempt of court and  has been sentenced to 8 months in prison. (reported 6-16-11 in the Guardian in the UK)

6. See Posting dated October 4, 2011- no finding of contempt

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