Jury Foreman’s Blog a Likely Issue on Appeal

A local trial court has just denied a new trial motion based on juror misconduct, where the misconduct was the jury foreman’s blogging about the gang member’s 19-day murder trial while it was going on, including posting a photo of the murder weapon, commenting on the evidence and witnesses, praising his own performance as jury foreman, and criticizing the work ethic of courtroom staff. From today’s Ventura County Star:

After sentencing a gang member to prison for murder, a Ventura County judge ripped into the jury foreman Tuesday, holding the juror in contempt of court for writing a blog that exposed details of the case during the trial.

The blog, or Web log, also criticized the judge’s staff and complained that the 19-day trial was taking too long.

Ventura County Superior Court Judge Edward Brodie told the jury member, identified only as Juror No. 7, that he had failed to follow the judge’s daily instructions to refrain from discussing the case with anyone during the trial.

Attorneys said this apparently marks the first time a jury member in Ventura County has been accused of misconduct for producing a blog, an increasingly popular type of journal on the Internet.

“. . . an increasingly popular type of journal on the Internet.”  Ya think?

The jury foreman testified at his contempt proceedings that “he didn’t believe his blog constituted ‘discussing the case’ in defiance of the judge’s instructions.”  Really?  According to the defendant’s lawyer, the blog included a chat room where readers asked questions and the juror answered them.

The article includes some sparring between counsel over the merits of raising the blog as an issue on appeal.  The trial judge’s ruling, obviously, means that he did not think that the misconduct prejudiced the fairness of the trial.

According to the article, the blog is titled “The Misanthrope,” but none of the blogs I found that included “misanthrope” in the title had posts about the trial.  It’s possible the judge ordered the juror to take down the posts, but I couldn’t even find cached pages in Google.