We’ve detailed jurors using facebook and other social media during trials, but this is the first time someone has actually been sentenced to jail. Courts have had jurors write papers and even pay fines, but one judge in the U.K. sentenced a juror to 8 months in jail.
Why Did The Judge Sentence A Juror To Prison For Using Facebook?
The BBC reports that Joanne Fraill admitted to contacting the defendant in her case via Facebook. Frail, 40 had contacted the defendant, Jamie Sewart, despite being a juror on his drug case. The trial is estimated to have cost 6 million pounds. Sewart was given a 2 month sentence suspended for 2 years after he was found guilty of contempt; Fraill was sentenced to 8 months in jail. While she was sentenced to 8 months, she is likely to only spend 4 months in jail and will be eligible for early release.
The Judge focused on the oath that all jurors take before a trial begins, that they will refrain from doing outside research. The judge likened the Facebook contact to gossiping with a neighbor or going to a library to look up questions of law. When you disobey the oath, you disobey the instruction of the judge and if discovered, you may be held in contempt of court.
Making matters worse, Fraill admitted to making contact during the trial and even during deliberation. In fact, she revealed details of the jury deliberations (who was leaning which way) during online conversations. Fraill claims that she only contacted Sewart because she felt so bad for her as the trial continued on.
What do you think? Is 8 months in jail too much for using Facebook during trial?
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