Court Upholds Conviction Despite Tweets by Two Different Jurors: U.S. v. Liu
A federal district court this week, in U.S. v. Liu et. al, upheld the conviction of three defendants two of whom were attorneys for immigration fraud despite the fact that two different jurors sent out trial-related tweets. The first juror was dismissed prior to deliberations so that juror was less of an issue. The second juror was not removed and thus serves as the basis for the defendant’s motion for a new trial. In dismissing the defendant’s motion the trial judge determined that
When the embrace of social media is ubiquitous, it cannot be surprising that examples of jurors using platforms like Facebook and Twitter “are legion.” United States v. Fumo. And because of the risks inherent in such ac- tivity, “vigilance on the part of trial judges is warranted.” Ganias, 755 F.3d at 132. On this record, however, Defendants’ claim must fail. Juror2 was an attentive juror who,while engaging in banter with fellow Twitter users about her experience, was nonetheless careful never to discuss the sub- stance of the case, as instructed by the Court. The record is devoid of any evidence that she was either dishonest or biased, or that Defendants were prejudiced by her tweets in any way.
I think the trial judge got it right here. In the Digital Age, it is naive to believe that jurors are going to forego social media throughout the trial; it has become too omnipresent. The key is to see if the juror starts to discuss or get into the merits of the case.