Commentary

Juror Booted Over Facebook Post

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This story encapsulates so many illustrative points about the rise of social media: its effectiveness as a communications platform, the rapid change in privacy expectations and online behaviors, the important role of young people in navigating these implications, the overlap (and conflict) between personal social media use and official responsibilities ... the list goes on. But above all it affirms the deep, enduring -- indeed, eternal -- nature of human stupidity.

A 20-year-old female juror, Hadley Jons, was removed from a Michigan jury for posting a comment on Facebook which flagrantly violated her oath as a juror, gloating that it was "gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're GUILTY" -- before the defense had even started its case, in which a Leann Etchison was being tried for resisting arrest (she was later found guilty).

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Even talking about the case with in private would violate the rules governing jury trials in Michigan, which forbids "any communication by a juror to any person, including a husband or wife, with respect to the case on which that juror is serving." But Jons' Facebook post really, really violated the rules for jury service; the Michigan oath requires jurors to "justly decide the questions submitted to you," and Michigan's instructions to jurors clearly state that "it is your duty not to form or express an opinion until the case is finally submitted to you for your verdict."

Posting the comment on Facebook also violated the rule implemented by the Michigan Supreme Court in September 2009, which forbids jurors from obtaining or disclosing information about the case electronically when they are outside the courtroom (the rule, one of the nation's first, was prompted by several mistrials involving jurors or witnesses blabbing using online media).

After Jones' post was discovered on August 11 by Jaxon Goodman, the 17-year-old son of the defense attorney, Macomb County Circuit Judge Diane Druzinski removed her from the jury, admonishing her: "You violated your oath. ... You had decided she was already guilty without hearing the other side."

This week the judge fined Jons $250 and also said she is required to write a five-page essay about the 6th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Jons actually got off easy, as forming an opinion prematurely and talking about the case outside of court are both "an act of contempt and may be punished by... imprisonment." But something tells me writing that five-page essay isn't "gonna be fun."

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