Sunday, February 19, 2012

Don't want to serve on a jury do we? Facebook-friend the defendant and get 3-days ..... "HaHa!"

Good Day Readers:

A variation of this happened recently during the Michel Hince - Jerome Labossiere trial where both Defendants each faced 3-counts of first degree murder.

A couple days in a juror, only identified as juror number 1, had a note passed to presiding Justice Brenda Keyser advising one of the witnesses (an RCMP officer) who had testified they had known since childhood and was a "friend" on their Facebook Page. Justice Keyser immediately ordered the juror to "defriend" the person and not correspond with them via the internet or elsewhere until after the trial.

She then read the list of remaining witnesses (18 as we recall) and asked the remaining 11-jurors to do the same if in a similar situation. Fortunately, this did not trigger a mistrial but could it? Depends upon what, if anything, the juror and witness-Facebook friend had previously discussed about the case.Defence lawyers are always looking for mistrials.

Manitoba courts like those throughout the country are struggling with the issues posed by the social media. We recommend Queen's Bench and Provincial Court constitute a Blue Ribbon Panel with membership from a diverse segment of the population (both internal and external to the court system) to address this problem and come up with some recommendations before a costly mistrial is triggered either inadvertently or deliberately.

Clare L. Pieuk
Juror jailed over Facebook friend request
Jacob Jock is taken to Sarasota jail after being found guilty on a criminal contempt of court charge on Wednesday after he Facebook-friended a defendant in a trial for which he had just been selected as a juror on December 12, 2011. (Pool Photo, Elaine Litherland)

By Robert Eckhart
Thursday, February 16, 2012

SARASOTA - Circuit Judge Nancy Donnellan on Thursday handed a stern rebuke, and a three-day jail sentence, to a juror who sent a Facebook message to the defendant in an auto negligence case.

Jacob Jock, a 29-year-old graduate of Ringling College of Art and Design, was dismissed from jury duty after the defendant, a young woman, disclosed that he had contacted her via the Facebook social media website as the trial began in December.

But what most angered Donnellan was Jock's bragging on Facebook about it after the fact, when he wrote: "Score ... I got dismissed!! apparently they frown upon sending a friend request to the defendant ... haha."

Donnellan got the last word on Thursday.

"I cannot think of a more insidious threat to the erosion of democracy than citizens who do not care," she said after a two-hour hearing.

She found him guilty of criminal contempt of court, a misdemeanor.

Jock, also faulted by Donnellan for showing up nine minutes late to his trial, was handcuffed and ushered to a holding cell. His girlfriend cried as he was taken to jail; she would not comment.

Jock testified during the trial that the friend request he sent to Violeta Milerman was a mistake.

Lawyers had asked potential jurors if they knew anyone involved in the case.

Jock said Milerman looked familiar, but he wasn't sure, so he looked her up on Facebook. He has 1,300 "friends" and said he wasn't sure whether she was one or not, he said.

When her picture came up on his cell phone, Jock said he tried to push the "mutual friends" button to refresh his memory, but instead he hit "friend request."

He knew the request would be sent to Milerman, and said he regretted that he did not mention it during a daylong jury selection process that ended with him on the seven-member panel.

"I was just hoping she'd forget about it," Jock said. "It was a total mistake ... I kind of thought what happened wasn't that big a deal. Little did I know."

Milerman saw the request and told her attorney, who told the judge who removed Jock from the jury.

Keeping jurors from researching cases independently, or from gossiping about them online, is a growing preoccupation for judges and attorneys. Potential jurors are warned several times not to research places, people or events linked to cases.

Jock, owner of JJ Custom Screen Printing, also irked the judge by showing up 20 minutes late for his arraignment in January.

And then on Thursday he was late again, though his attorney said he had been told to go to the wrong floor of the courthouse.

"He was 20 minutes late the last time, so we'll wait — again — for him to show up," Donnellan said. "I don't know what the excuse was last time."


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