During a 2010 Sacramento County trial of five men for gang-related assault, a juror posted to Facebook about the trial. Among the comments, the juror posted: “Can it get any more BORING than going over piles and piles of (cell phone) records.” [SFGate]
At the outset of a trial, jurors are admonished to refrain from discussing the case with anyone while the trial is ongoing. On June 25, 2010, the jury convicted the men and the defense later sought records of all the juror’s postings and filed motions for a new-trial based on juror misconduct.
The juror and Facebook objected citing a federal law that protects on-line material from disclosure without a warrant or evidence of a crime. The sentencing phase was delayed and the trial judge ordered a hearing that included testimony from a number of the jurors. After the testimony, on February 4, 2011, the trial judge ordered the juror to consent to the disclosure. The California Court of Appeal Third Appellate District upheld the order.
Subsequently, on February 14, 2011, the Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court disagreed and stayed the order preventing its enforcement pending further review. On March 30, 2011, the justices unanimously extended the stay and told the appellate court to conduct a full review of the trial judge’s decision after briefing by both sides. [Sacramento Bee]
The ultimate outcome of this case may have repercussions for the juror and for those who might wish to rely on the right to privacy when posting on Facebook and other social media platforms.