A $10 million UK trial involving police corruption, a $32,000 BMW and Premier League match tickets collapsed after a juror admitted to contacting the case’s defendant on Facebook.
Former juror Joanne Fraill, 40, decided to have a chat with defendant Jamie Sewart, 34, about her ongoing juicy drug gang trial in Manchester, England last year. So Fraill found Sewart on Facebook. That mistake – and the trial-related gossip fest that ensued – may land both women in jail for two years.
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Today, Fraill admitted to London’s High Court that she talked about the 2010 case with Sewart while the jury was still mulling the verdicts of other defendants. Fraill also searched the internet for information on said defendants. Such actions fly in the face of the Contempt of Court Act of 1981, which stipulates that jurors cannot research (read: Google stalk) defendants and must decide the case based on the evidence presented in court.
The British judicial system, notorious for its glacial modus operandi, has been caught off guard by the Facebook age. Lord Judge, the Lord Chief Justice, (yes, his surname is “Judge”) is expected set out new rules for jurors concerning the internet and other social gadgetry. Meanwhile, his deputy, Head of Civil Justice Lord Neuberger, lamented recently that “modern technology is totally out of control.”
The case is not the first of its kind: Last month, a journalist from the Times of London allegedly tweeted about a famous soccer player who secured a gag order to conceal his marital infidelities. UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt accused Twitter of making “an ass of the law” in the wake of the case.