Ex-Juror Who "Friended" Defendant Faces Jail for Bragging on Facebook About Dismissal From Jury Duty
By now, attorneys should know to advise their clients to watch out for Friend requests from jurors during a trial. The latest debacle concerning jurors use of social media involves a juror “friending” a party and then bragging about his resulting dismissal from the panel. For that juror, his Facebook antics landed him a three-day jail sentence. Click here and here for additional coverage regarding this incident.
Back in December, a Florida man serving jury duty sent a Friend request to the defendant. The defendant told her attorney about the request, and Circuit Judge Nancy Donnellan dismissed the juror and admonished him for his actions. But, the story doesn’t end there.
After his dismissal, the ex-juror took to his Facebook page again. This time, he posted a comment: “Score . . . I got dismissed!! [A]pparently they frown upon sending a friend request to the defendant . . . haha.” Unfortunately for the ex-juror, court officials became aware of the post, leading Judge Donnellan to call the ex-juror back into Court to face criminal contempt charges. At the end of a two-hour hearing, Judge Donnellan commented, “I cannot think of a more insidious threat to the erosion of democracy than citizens who do not care.” She sentenced the ex-juror to three days in jail, and he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs.
This is just another example of social media impacting judicial proceedings. (For recent blog posts on this issue, click here.) As the attorney for the plaintiff in this case commented, “it was a very big deal” to his client “who had $48,000 in medical bills on the line,” and if the female defendant had, for example, responded to the Friend request and went on a date with the juror, perhaps the juror would have found in her favor.
In light of these missteps, attorneys must be keen to clients’ Facebook page and activity and should consider monitoring the Facebook pages of the defendant and any jurors -- especially any juror who has been dismissed for the improper use of social media.
Jennifer Marino Thibodaux is an Associate on the Gibbons E-Discovery Task Force.