On May 7, 2011, TP, an 8 year USAF veteran, honorably discharged, went to Ybor City with his cousin. He and his (girl)friend had a disagreement when leaving a bar. A group of men from Manatee County insinuated themselves into their argument and started disparaging the woman with obscenities and vulgar comments. She pushed one of the men. A fight nearly occurred, although the client was always trying to calm the situation and quash the violence. When the client ran to get his car from a nearby lot, the traffic was bumper to bumper. Fearful that his cousin and friend would be jumped by this group, he drove on the wrong side of the road and accidently struck the same gentleman in the argument in the street. He was charged with Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon accused of intentionally running the man down in the street with his vehicle. He was immediately arrested. It took over a year to come to trial. The state’s investigation was very poor. The defense presented his two witnesses that law enforcement refused to take a statement from that night. The defense also introduced a forensic engineer who performed accelleration testing on the client’s vehicle. It was proven that his 4-cyl car could not generate the reported 35-40 mph speed in just 30 yards. The state’s witnesses statements differed from those originally taken. The client testified it was an accident as well. The jury took less than an hour to acquit him. The court excluded any testimony that the client suffered from PTSD due to his combat time in Iraq. The client was a medic in the Air Force and was studying to become a RN. There was no reason for him to retaliate against this accident victim. The court also excluded the victim’s twice the legal limit of alcohol plus cocaine and marijuana in his system.
A federal district judge in Manhattan says she is “keenly aware” of convictions set aside because jurors have looked up information on the Internet during trial, the New York Times reports. Judge Shira Scheindlin suggested a way to combat the problem by requiring jurors to sign a pledge promising they will not look up case related information online until the case is over. Violations of the pledge could bring perjury charges against jurors who fail to comply.
As most jurors have iPhones or Blackberrys with them when reporting for jury duty, how often do jurors fail to adhere to the admonition by the trial judge not to watch the news, read newspapers or surf the web during the trial? Because trials are only fair if the only evidence considered by the jury is what is presented in court, looking up information on the internet clearly requires reversal if it occurs and is known. Particularly in cases with a great deal of news coverage, it could certainly affect the outcome of the case should outside infomation infiltrate the jury’s deliberations. Consider making this request during jury selection of the trial judge in your case should you be a criminal defendant, particularly in a case with excessive media coverage.