BY: MARK SWEET, ESQ.

Today, social networking is everywhere. Almost every person has a facebook page (including the reclusive North Korean Dictator, Kim Jong Il), a twitter account, or a myspace page. A quick search on youtube can lead to hours of entertainment, whether it is a piano playing cat, an undiscovered musical talent, or someone teaching you how to do something. However, while many young people have grown accustomed to almost all of their antics being caught on tape or quickly relayed to everyone they know via facebook or twitter, there are still some issues best left off the internet.

Don't Post Anything On The Internet You Wouldn't Want A Judge To See

There’s an old (relatively speaking) saying that you shouldn’t publish anything on the internet you wouldn’t want to be shown in court. Well, Ms. Hadley Jons, a 20-year old from the Detroit area, was a juror on a criminal trial. After listening to part of the trial, she proudly declared on her Facebook that “[It’s] Gonna be fun to tell the defendant they're guilty.”(from Cnet) It’s important to remember that while a juror is empanelled (meaning they are serving as a juror or may be chosen as a juror), that they cannot discuss the case with anyone outside the deliberation room. This includes, friends (and yes Facebook friends), family members and even your spouse! By posting a Facebook status update, even if it was only to one of two people who had access, she would still be breaking the law and could be found in contempt.

A Global Problem

Sadly, this isn’t even the worst case; a 29-year old woman in the Manchester Crown Court was asked by one of her friends via a Facebook post “Did he do it?” She then decided to explain that they were split as a jury. Another UK juror stated “’I don't know which way to go, so I'm holding a poll!" the juror wrote, asking her Facebook friends to weigh in on the case.” (from Belfast Telegraph) While a jury is suppose to be a group of your peers, I doubt that a Facebook Friends poll was what the founding fathers intended.

What's The Punishment?

So what are the repercussions if a juror discusses the case with others? For the juror, they could be given a warning or they could be held in contempt. If they are held in contempt they may have to serve time in jail and/or pay a fine. For the actual person or people on trial, this could mean a re-trial because of jury misconduct.

So what do you think, should people who talk about a case on facebook be punished? Do people talk with others about the trial anyway and it’s no big deal? Let us know what you think.