• Going online may constitute contempt of court

    Date: 10.10.11 | by Judge Tom.

    Jamie Sewart was on trial in England charged with conspiracy to supply drugs. During her trial, one of the jurors contacted her on Facebook. The juror, 40-year-old Joanne Fraill, also used the Internet to search for information about Sewart’s boyfriend.

    At some point during the trial, Sewart told her attorney about her conversation with Fraill. This led to contempt of court proceedings against both Sewart and Fraill. Juries are routinely instructed by the judge to stay off all digital devices including social networking sites, and not conduct any research on parties or witnesses. A violation can cause a mistrial resulting in additional expense and the possibility of injustice to all or some of the parties.

    Sewart was acquitted of the drug charge, but found in contempt for her contact with Fraill during her trial. Fraill immediately admitted what she had done and apologized to the court. However, her direct violation of the court’s admonition about the Internet and inappropriate use led the judge to comment that misuse of the Internet by a juror was always “a most serious irregularity.” In June, 2011, Fraill was sentenced to eight months in jail. She was led out of the courtroom to begin her sentence.

    Juror Joanne Fraill

    The court considered Fraill’s empathy for Sewart who had spent fourteen months in jail awaiting trial and away from her baby. Fraill is the mother of three who expressed concern over Sewart’s situation.

    Check out Hadley Jon’s story involving a juror’s use of Facebook during trial.

    Judge Tom

    This post was written by Judge Tom. Judge Tom is the founder and moderator of AsktheJudge.info. He is a retired juvenile judge and spent 23 years on the bench. He has written several books for lawyers and judges as well as teens and parents including the recently published 'Teen Cyberbullying Investigated' (Free Spirit Publishing). When he's not answering teens' questions, Judge Tom can be found hiking, traveling and reading.

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    2 Comments subscribe to these comments.

    • Askthejudge.info
      Tue, 11 Oct 2011 at 12:46

      New blog post: Going online may constitute contempt of court http://t.co/N5Zx7YMB

    • Tulsa Divorce Lawyers
      Tue, 11 Oct 2011 at 09:44

      Technically, legally speaking that juror was ordered to have ‘no contact’ with any of the parties or witnesses involved in the case. When the juror want on line and contacted the defendant, the juror violated the judge’s order which is punishable as ‘contempt of court’.

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