September 10, 2010 – Facebook and Twitter are the hottest new sources of fodder for court trials. Primarily, we’ve heard of status updates and Tweets serving as evidence in criminal and civil cases, with everything from busting burglars to helping convict sex offenders or prove adultery in a contentious divorce. Social media is now making waves on the other side of the courtroom – in the jury box.
Trials can be upset by juror social media posts, too.
A Detroit woman was recently removed from a jury after her Facebook status disclosed details about the criminal trial for which she was hearing testimony. Hadley Jons, 20, of Warren, Mich. had posted the comment “gonna be fun to tell the defendant they’re GUILTY” on her public Facebook profile. The problem was that the post was dated August 11; before the defense had even started its case.
Jons was removed from the jury the following day, after the post was discovered by Jaxon Goodman, 17, the son of the defense’s lawyer who brought the post to his father’s attention.
Upon notification, Judge Diane Druzinski of the Macomb County Circuit Court ordered the removal, along with a $250 fine and a 5-page essay about the constitutional right to a fair trial, both due by October 1. Druzinski said it didn’t matter whether the statement was posted to Facebook or spoken to a friend, Jons violated the oath that she would hear both sides of the case before making a decision.
The criminal case for which Jons was a juror was against Leann Etchison who was charged with resisting arrest. Jons’ Facebook post violated Etchison’s 6th amendment rights to a fair trial, which prompted her removal from the jury. Etchinson’s case was eventually settled with a guilty verdict, although Jons’ punishment was not made public until 3 weeks following her removal.
This latest story of social media and the law is just another reminder that every lawyer should caution their clients: anything transmitted through the Internet can potentially be used against you.There’s no 100% safe information on the Internet, and social media is becoming a hot spot for lawyers to discover evidence in their cases against the other party.
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