Posts Tagged ‘jury instructions’

Florida Jurors Banned From Blogging About Criminal Cases

Ethan Wall | June 14, 2012 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (0)

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The Florida Supreme Court does want any jurors in criminal cases to use social media to discuss their cases, Law.com reports

The high court recently adopted the work of its Committee on Standard Jury Instructions in Criminal Cases. Trial judges must tell jurors they “must not use electronic devices or computers to talk about this case, including tweeting, texting, blogging, emailing, posting information on a website or chat room, or any other means at all.”

The instructions against the use of social media are essentially the same as originally introduced in October 2010. There are now several versions, each tailored to the different phases of jury participation. The latest includes an instruction to be given just before jury instructions and another when the case is submitted to the jury for deliberations.

A 2010 Reuters Legal survey found at least 90 verdicts subject to challenge from 1999 to 2010 because of internet-related juror misconduct, according to Law.com. More than half the cases cited occurred from 2008 to 2010. Despite instructions, jurors continue to misuse Google and their Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Florida’s Standard Jury Instructions for Criminal Cases can be found on the Florida Supreme Court website.


Juror Faces Jail Time for “Friending” Defendant on Facebook

Ethan Wall | February 23, 2012 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (1)

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A Sarasota man who allegedly “friended” the defendant in a case while serving on a jury could face jail time next week if found guilty of disregarding a judge’s orders, according to WTSP.com.

Jacob Jock was selected to be part of a jury for a car accident case back in December. Jock was dismissed from the jury after it was discovered that he friended the defendant in the case. Prudently, the defendant refused to accept Jock’s friend request and instead alerted her attorney. Following his dismissal, court officials became aware of more Facebook posts, including a wall post detailing his excitement for being kicked off the jury. These posts prompted the judge to find him in contempt of court. If found guilty following a hearing, he could face a fine or even jail time.

This is another critical example of how social media is affecting the legal system.  More than ever, attorneys need to monitor social media use of their clients, opposing parties, witnesses, and juries.  Attorneys can take prevention measures by requesting a jury instruction warning juror’s of the implications and consequences of using social media during trial.  Thanks to Michael Napoleone for the link!


Death Row Inmate Awarded New Trial Due to a Tweet

Ethan Wall | December 13, 2011 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (5)

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 The Arkansas Supreme Court tossed out a death row inmate’s murder conviction and said he deserves a new trial because a juror tweeted during court proceedings, Yahoo News reports.

Erickson Dimas-Martinez appealed his 2010 murder conviction because a juror sent tweets despite the judge’s instruction not to post on the Internet or communicate with anyone about the case.

In one tweet, juror Randy Franco wrote: “Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken…We each define the great line.” Less than an hour before the jury announced its verdict, he tweeted: “It’s over.”

Other tweets by Franco made passing references to the trial, with posts such as, “The coffee sucks here” and “Court. Day 5. here we go again.”

The court said Franco, known as Juror 2 in court documents, violated general instructions to not discuss the case. Before opening arguments, the judge said: “Just remember, never discuss this case over your cell phone … and don’t Twitter anybody about this case.”

Attorneys must take proactive steps to educate the judge and request specijury instructions to prevent jurors from using social media during trial.  In December 2010, Florida adopted a new standard jury instruction that specifically instrtucts jurors not to tweet during trial:

http://richmangreerblog.com/2011/03/social-media-law-order-jury-instructions/

Additionally, attorneys and their support staff should constantly monitor Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites belonging to key parties, witnesses, jurors, and opposing counsel to properly raise any issues to the Court.  As demonstrated above, social media use can significantly impact the outcome of a case - and even reverse a death sentence.  


Request Jury Instructions to Prevent Improper Social Media Use

Ethan Wall | March 22, 2011 in Social Media Law & Order | Comments (5)

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Social media is penetrating the legal system from the courtroom to the jury room.  With the power to access social media from the palm(pilot) of your hand, instances of jurors impermissibly discussing cases through “electronic communication” such as Twitter and Facebook are becoming more frequent in today’s legal system. As early as 2009, attorneys have monitored jurors’ social media use as another tool in their arsenal to overturn verdicts and move for mistrials.

In Stoam Holdings v. Diehl, the defense moved for a mistrial on the grounds that a juror researched information about the case and communicated with others outside the jury about the case when he made the following tweets:

“So Jonathan, what did you do today? Oh nothing really, I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else’s money.”

Shortly thereafter, the juror again tweeted about the case, this time included a hyperlink directly to the defendant’s website:

“oh and nobody buy Stoam. Its bad mojo and they’ll probably cease to Exist, now that their wallet is 12m lighter.  http://www.stoam.com”

One can easily imagine the types of scenarios where this conduct could arise. A juror could post a verdict concerning their trial to their Facebook before the prosecution closes their case. They could just as easily communicate with a party through Myspace about their view of the trial.  Until recently, attorneys would be required to mine through social media sites to uncover these clandestine communications.   Thanks to the Florida Supreme Court, attorneys in Florida may no longer shoulder that burden.

New jury instructions adopted by the Supreme Court of Florida, which judges will pass along to jurors, instruct them not to discuss the case through “electronic communication, such as a blog, Twitter, e-mail, text message, or any other means.”  Accordingly, if attorneys want to spend more time preparing their closing arguments than sifting through their jurors’ Facebook profiles, they should consider requesting the following instruction (an excerpt from Florida’s new jury instructions):

“During deliberations, jurors must communicate about the case only with one another and only when all jurors are present in the jury room. You are not to communicate with any person outside the jury about this case. Until you have reached a verdict, you must not talk about this case in person or through the telephone, writing, or electronic communication, such as a blog, Twitter, e-mail, text message, or any other means. Do not contact anyone to assist you during deliberations. These communications rules apply until I discharge you at the end of the case. If you become aware of any violation of these instructions or any other instruction I have given in this case, you must tell me by giving a note to the bailiff.

In reaching your decision, do not do any research on your own or as a group. Do not use dictionaries, the Internet, or any other reference materials. Do not investigate the case or conduct any experiments…Do not visit or view the scene of any event involved in this case or look at maps or pictures on the Internet. If you happen to pass by the scene, do not stop or investigate.

Jurors must not have discussions of any sort with friends or family members about the case or the people and places involved. So, do not let even the closest family members make comments to you or ask questions about the trial. In this age of electronic communication, I want to stress again that just as you must not talk about this case face-to-face, you must not talk about this case by using an electronic device. You must not use phones, computers or other electronic devices to communicate. Do not send or accept any messages related to this case or your jury service. Do not discuss this case or ask for advice by any means at all, including posting information on an Internet website, chat room or blog.”