Breaking Down Bad Jurors $1,000 at a Time

Jurors behaving badly is nothing new. Jurors behaving badly using social media isn’t particularly new, either. But the consequences are becoming more severe.

Basically, the story generally goes like this: juror is warned not to post online comments about the case they are deciding. Juror violates court’s instructions and post comments anyway. The court discovers the juror’s comments and is forced to declare a mistrial.

That’s exactly what happened in a recent robbery case in New York. A working mom’s Facebook posts – made while she complained of “dying of boredom” – wiped out days of testimony. In this case, there were no alternate jurors available, so the court had to declare a mistrial.

Instead of only finding the woman in contempt, the judge also slapped her with a $1,000 fine. The woman reportedly was contrite and remorseful when addressing her actions before the court, telling the judge she is financially supporting her two children since her ex-husband is disabled, and she is afraid she will lose her job at JP Morgan Chase. 

Feel sorry for her? Well, she also admitted that it was made “clear” to her that she could not post about the trial. The judge said that she wasted thousands of dollars of taxpayer funds, and one of the robbery victims who testified incurred travel costs after moving out of state because of the trauma of the crime.  

Jurors are not the only ones inconvenienced by trials. So are the victims and the witnesses. Prosecutors, defense lawyers, judges, court reporters, bailiffs, interpreters, etc, all cost money, most of which is borne by the taxpayers. 

$1,000 won’t compensate anyone for the incredible disruption caused by this one juror. But it’s a start.

Posted: 1/8/2016 9:47:44 AM by On the Merits Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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