Boca Raton Juror Arrested for Facebook Posting
By Fred Hamilton
A Boca Raton man was hauled out of court in handcuffs and faces contempt charges for posting comments on Facebook and lying about it while serving as a juror.
Alexander Sutton, 24, could be the first juror in Palm Beach County to face up to six months in jail for disobeying a judge’s blanket — and repeated — order to refrain from using the Internet to broadcast his views on a civil case he was deciding.
Sheriff’s deputies hauled Sutton from the courtroom in handcuffs on May 20 after one of the attorneys involved in the case discovered his Facebook rants and showed them to Circuit Judge Jack Cox.
Sutton lied when questioned under oath about whether he had posted comments about the trial on Facebook, Cox wrote in his order.
An alternate juror filled Sutton’s spot and the trial continued. But the judge ordered Sutton to remove the comments from his Facebook page and return to court on June 20 to explain why he should not be held in contempt of court.
The comments on the page were not made public and the attorney declined to share it.
“In addition to expressing general disdain about jury service, he made very specific comments about the case itself,” Smith reportedly said. “The comments made it clear that he couldn’t be and never was fair and impartial.”
Smith ultimately won $3,929 for a woman who was injured in a 2010 car crash.
There are other culprits who could experience Sutton’s fate. Attorney Spencer Kuvin says he plans to ask a judge to find that two other jurors engaged in similar activity during another case.
Kuvin says the activity is far from rare.
People’s compulsion to use social media while serving on juries has raised concerns of lawyers and judges nationwide.
The rapid growth of social media and online networking has had a significant impact in the courtroom, particularly concerning jurors. Juror misconduct online have triggered mistrials and new trials as a result of inappropriate social media activity during trials. A few jurors have even faced charges of contempt of court for their posts and activities on Facebook or Twitter during trials.
In April 2013, a judge in Oregon ordered a 26-year-old Oregon man serving as a juror in an armed-robbery case jailed for two days after he was caught texting during the trial.
As prosecutors played a video-taped interview with the defendant, Judge Dennis Graves suddenly halted the trial after noticing a light glow around juror Benjamin Kohler’s chest. The judge, who had previously instructed jurors to pay attention and not to use mobile phones, immediately halted the proceeding and ordered everybody to vacate the courtroom except Kohler.
“The duty to serve as a juror must be taken very seriously. Every juror has the responsibility to devote his entire attention to the witnesses and evidence being presented,” the judge said in a statement. “In this case, Mr. Kohler failed to meet his obligations and failed to honor the direction of this court. My hope is that he will use his time in jail to reflect upon his behavior.”
According to a Reuters Legal article, the rate of jurors tweeting or posting comments on social media sites during trials is astoundingly high.