Monday, August 30, 2010

Facebook post lands juror in hot water

Think a juror's fondness for social media won't affect your client? Think again. A Macomb County (Michigan) judge removed a juror from a case after the defendant's attorney's son found that the juror, Ms. Hadley Jons, had posted a message on her Facebook page that she thought the defendant was guilty -- before the trial was over.

Judge Diane Druzinski has ordered Ms. Jons to return to court on Thursday to determine if she will be held in contempt.

While the judge was upset and the defendant's attorney was outraged, the fact that a juror had already made up her mind is not that disturbing. We are told in seminar after seminar that anywhere from 75% to 100% of jurors make their minds up before hearing any evidence. Based on the handy 80/20 rule, I will assume that up to 80% of jurors have their minds made before the trial even starts. Why else would we sit through as many seminars as we do dealing with voir dire and using your opening statement to tell a story?

Back in the pre-Facebook days no one would ever have known Ms. Jons had already decided the case before it was over. She might have told a friend and that friend may have told someone else, but there would have been no way to discover those conversations outside Ms. Jons' own admission. The kicker here was that she broadcast here opinion on Facebook without giving a second thought whether someone might be checking up on her during the trial.

This incident points out two very important points. First, you need to know who among your panel uses social media on a regular basis, who posts on Facebook, who spends time on Twitter and who reads or writes blogs that might have something to do with the issues in your case. Second, with our expanded use of social media, we are rapidly shrinking our reasonable expectation of privacy  -- just ask Ms. Jons about that.

No comments: