Wednesday, January 09, 2013


Although one important goal of the criminal justice system is finality, your favorite Clearwater Criminal Defense Lawyer would argue that the most important goal of a criminal trial is that it be fair. 
A federal judge in the Middle District of Florida in Tampa issued an ex parte order last week directing the Marshall's office to seize the computer of a juror. 

Renoir's famous painting of a couple in the theater box is not unlike two jurors searching for evidence in Tampa Bay, Florida where a federal judge wants to make sure a drug defendant's guilty verdict was fair despite a juror who made google searches during the trial.
Renoir, Jurors Seeking Evidence
The juror apparently told news sources that during a criminal trial for Trafficking in Cocaine of reggae star Buju Banton, she inappropriately looked up information on the internet. The verdict against the rapper was guilty and the never resting Defense is seeking a new trial, with one hopes, a jury without internet connectivity.
Clearly if any internet information was used by members of the jury before or during jury deliberations, then the Defendant may not have received a fair trial. 
One wonders if spreading cellphone technology with ready access to the internet will make fair criminal trials impossible in the future. 

The federal judge recanted his decision on seizing the former juror's computer based on possible juror misconduct after argument from counsel according to press reports:

The Judge changed his mind after a prosecutor questioned whether the order, which was made during a telephone conference between the judge and lawyers in the case, had adequately addressed privacy and due-process issues.
Defense counsel for Banton contends that the jury was swayed by the juror and information she obtained through Web surfing to convict Banton instead of acquitting him.
...In an exclusive interview the Juror allegedly stated that she researched some issues in the case during trial so that she would be ready to deal with them during deliberations. She said: "I would get in the car, just write my notes down so I could remember, and I would come home and do the research," the newspaper reported in October.
It's ironic that federal prosecutors addressed privacy and due process issues to the Judge to solidify their conviction, as they're more apt to trample these bastions of liberty. Yet more ironic perhaps is that the Defense seeks the computer files thru any means necessary. 
Ultimately the Court made a better decision in requiring that the Juror appear before him in a week and to come armed with the computer so both sides can have an opportunity to have experts examine the google searches made during the trial.
Unhappily these confounded Judges are still somewhat unwilling to have folks reading this blog during jury deliberations. From my experience in Federal Trials your Clearwater Criminal Attorney has no doubt that the entire jury panel was repeatedly cautioned by the Judge to make their decision based only on the information provided by the lawyers or the Court during the trial as this insures the certainty that the Defendant receives a fair trial based on the evidence and the applicable federal law.

No comments: