One overly social jury foreman in Missouri is serving as a cautionary tale about the dangers of Facebook during trials. The case began during a 2009 medical malpractice wrongful death case and the foreman wasted no time talking to friends online about his time on the jury. He mentioned his first day, discussed the trial itself, what happened during deliberations and even complained about the lack of alcoholic beverages.
The jury foreman was clearly interested in speeding the process along, even bragging about how fast he was pushing the deliberation process. The jury ultimately ruled in favor of the doctors and awarded nothing to the family of the patient who went to the hospital with a swollen leg, was misdiagnosed and eventually died as a result of brain damage.
The family’s wrongful death attorney is now appealing the case, claiming that his client failed to get a fair trial given the jury foreman’s Facebook posts.
Though most judges nowadays instruct jurors to avoid talking about the case using social media, many jurors either fail to listen or don’t care about the warning. Just last year a murder conviction in Arkansas was thrown out after it was revealed that a juror had been tweeting about the case. Another case was thrown out in Maryland after a juror revealed that she was friends on MySpace with the defendant. In the most egregious example of juror misconduct, a man in England posted a poll of his friends about whether they believed the defendant in his sex assault case was guilty.
Though the jury foreman’s glib and insulting messages may have been made in error, there has to be proof that prejudice resulted before the verdict can be thrown out. Rather than watch what the juror said, the judge will be looking to see what his friends said in reply, given that this could show that the juror was being influenced by outside parties.
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