Facebook Comments by Juror Causes Mistrial

A Facebook comment by a juror made before a trial has resulted in a mistrial. CBC news reports that on the first day of a Moncton murder trial of Fred Prosser, the victim’s family brought to the judge’s attention the fact that one of the jurors was a member of a Facebook group against the accused, and had posted comments on it. The judge declared a mistrial to avoid the possibility that this juror had already tainted the rest of the jury.

You can hear David Fraser’s comments in this CBC interview. David comments that many people don’t appreciate that the rules of the offline world apply to the online world as well. I couldn’t agree more. 

On the one hand, some people totally forget the old rules and do things on social media that they would never do in a letter to the editor. But on the other hand, some people are more comfortable with the risks of things they are familiar with than new things.

This often explains why some people do imprudent things online, and why some organizations try to unduly suppress online activity.

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Comments

  1. It is very odd that the juror did not disqualify himself when selected for that trial, given his public statements. What was he thinking?

    It is also very odd that the judge thought that one juror might have unduly influenced eleven others in half a day of a trial scheduled to last several weeks. Again, what was he thinking? that they would not pay any attention to the evidence?

    I suppose the defendant does not mind a four months’ delay in starting the trial (assuming he’s not in custody), but surely that’ a waste of resources too.

  2. m. diane kindree

    Selecting a jury is not easy because people lie and not just about making comments on facebook a year ago but about having been arrested and/or even having a criminal record. How can you forget something like that?? As well, some people don’t think serving time in jail is a big deal and so why mention it. However, I do not think it odd that the court acted to protect the rights of the accused to a fair trial by taking immediate steps to preserve the impartiality of the jurors perceptions of evidence. This is a different problem than paying attention to the evidence which I have no doubt that most jurors would try to do.

    If something can be learned from this case it is that lawyers will need to ask specific questions related to a potential jurors comments and associations on social media specific to the accused and/or the case.
    In addition, I would think lawyers would do their own internet cross-referencing to see if a juror has any undisclosed biases which may lead to a mistrial. In my opinion, it would be better if the lawyers brought this to the courts attention rather than the victim’s family.