Tales of Social Media: Don’t Facebook Friend a Defendant

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September 1, 2011 – Normally we’d reserve this story for a Fun Friday blog, but it’s got a great message about the impact social media has on today’s society, so we’re running with it today!

A recent article in the Texas Star-Telegram newspaper reported a Fort Worth juror who found himself on the other side of the courtroom after a Facebook faux pas.

Jonathan Hudson was a juror on a civil trial in July. There was nothing abnormal about the case – but Hudson’s actions made this story newsworthy after he tried to “friend” the defendant on Facebook. To make matters even more complicated, he also discussed details of the case on his profile – a big no-no when you’re on jury duty.

no_jury_facebook

As a juror in Tarrant County (and pretty much every other district court in the U.S.) you are prohibited from discussing details of the trial you are on. This means no posts about it on Facebook, no tweets from the jury box, and no Foursquare check-ins saying “Let’s just find this guy guilty so I can get out for happy hour.”

Hudson plead guilty to 4 counts of contempt of court for his Facebook behaviors, earning him 2 days of community service performing chores assigned to him by the jury bailiff later this month. The Tarrant County district attorney’s office said they’ve never seen a juror attempt to use social media to contact someone in the case they’re involved with.

According to the records, Hudson was 1 of 12 jurors hearing the case of Courtney Downing who was involved in a 2008 car wreck. Hudson attempted to connect with Downing via Facebook on July 18 after court had recessed for the day. The next morning after the activity was reported, he was dismissed and the trial went on with 11 jurors.

This story just goes to show you that you never know who is watching your social media conduct. There are many ways that social media use can land your clients in hot water, especially in divorce or personal injury cases. But remember that with the bad there is also good – especially if you have We Do Web Content providing quality content to your social media profiles and managing your local search connections!

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