A juror who used Facebook to contact the defendant in a drugs case now faces a possible jail term. The story begins last year, when Jamie Sewart was in court to answer drugs charges in the U.K. city of Manchester.
Jury member Joanne Fraill found Sewart on Facebook and started sending her messages, including behind-the-scenes details of what had been discussed in the jury room—stuff that a defendant is not supposed to hear.
When the judge found out, the entire jury was dismissed and the case ground to a halt. A year later, and today Fraill was in the dock, admitting Contempt. The court heard how she and Sewart friended each other and then proceeded to talk about Sewart’s case.
The trouble with modern juries is that they’re no longer cut off from the rest of the world when they retire to the jury room to consider a verdict. Armed with smartphones and 3G gizmos, they’re as connected as they ever were.
Not only do they have to put aside their own feelings and prejudices and make a decision based on the evidence they’ve heard; these days they also have to resist the temptation to answer lingering questions in the way they’re used to answering them: with a quick web search.
Senior judges in the U.K. have already made it plain that simply searching the web for stuff relating to a case for which you’re on the jury is enough to get you a Contempt charge. Don’t even think about following the defendant’s Twitter feed, or trying to “Friend” them somewhere.
(Via BBC News)