Monday, August 22, 2011

Intimidating Jurors, The Facebook Way

I was in court this morning to try and get a recalcitrant defendant to attend her creditor's exam that she has been blowing off. WEhile waiting to be heard, I happend to observe some interesting motions realting to Facebook.

The Judge had a criminal sexual conduct trial heading into the deliberation stage, after the alternate jurors had been dismissed, when she was notified by a juror of a problem.

It turns out the juror knew, and had previosuly disclosed that she knew the mother of the defendant, and she informed the Judge that she had received a Facebook message from the defendant's uncle that was rather creepy. The message was clearly aimed at her regarding her being a juror at his nephew's trial and she was clearly intimidated by it. Certainly it was a smart move on the part of the juror to expose this contact, and she properly reported it to the judge without informing any other juror.

The Judge was not pleased with this contact, nor was the prosecutor, nor indeed was the defense attorney.

So the Judge dismissed the intimidated juror and had to call back the alternate who had been dismissed Friday to return to court for deliberations.

I'm quite sure the uncle is about to get quite the talking-to about attempting to influence a juror on a case.....

Adding to the show, today there was yet another motion brought forth in an unrelated case to get a subpoena to have Facebook produce a person's page and entries.

It appears the plaintiff in the case had claimed she was disabled and badly injured in an accident. She had previously had her page public until the defendant's attorneys inquired if she was on Facebook. As soon as they inquired, she made her settings private, possibly because postings and pictures on Facebook might show her engaging in activities that show her less disabled and injured than she represented in her claims. The Judge ruled that she needed to release the page entries for the time from when she marked it private back to the time of the accident so it could be checked for any interesting content.

Facebook presents multiple opportunities for communication, but also lots of opportunities to make costly mistakes.

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