Popular Culture Review Vol. 28, No. 2, Summer 2017 - Page 32

Some courts use more aggressive methods of controlling juror conduct. They stress the fact that Internet misconduct constitutes a violation of the law and that harsh penalties await violators. Punishment is often issued via a criminal contempt charge. “Contempt of court generally refers to conduct that defies, disrespects or insults the authority or dignity of a court. Often, contempt takes the form of actions that are seen as detrimental to the court’s ability to administer justice.” 53 Given the severity of the consequences to the defendant, the court is hard pressed to administer justice in an instance where a juror engages in the improper activity. Disobedient jurors are charged with criminal contempt or a punitive reprimand that serves to deter future acts of contempt by punishing the offender no matter what happens in the underlying proceeding. 54 It is believed that giving the instructions orally and in writing followed by the consequences of disobedience serves to prevent misconduct. 55 The goal is to use punishment as a deterrence. A juror on a case in Tarrant County Texas attempted to “friend” the defendant in his case on Facebook. Not only did his action result in dismissal from service, but contempt charges also ensued. After a guilty plea, the juror was sentenced to two days of community service. 56 Courts have also ordered jurors to pay fines after being found guilty of contempt of court for engaging in inappropriate conduct. A juror serving on a rape case in Georgia was fined $500 for Googling information about the case. A judge in Michigan fined a juror $250 in a trial where a defendant was charged with resisting arrest. There the juror posted information about the trial on Facebook. 57 In United States v. Juror No. One 58 a juror was found guilty of criminal contempt after she disregarded the court’s instructions regarding email communication. A $1,000 fine was imposed against her. One court used a novel approach to penalizing a juror for wrongdoing. In addition to leveling a fine, it also ordered the juror to write an essay on the constitutional right to a fair trial. 59 53 Findlaw.com. Criminal Contempt of Court. http://criminal.findlaw.com/criminal-charges/criminal-contempt- of-court.html. Last accessed March 24, 2017. 54 Id. 55 Janoski-Haehlen at 67. 56 Eva-Marie Ayala, Tarrant County Juror Sentenced to Community Service for Trying to ‘Friend’ Defendant on Facebook, Aug. 28, 2011, http://www.tdcaa.com/issues/tarrant-county-juror-sentenced-community-service- trying-friend-defendant-facebook. Last accessed February 19, 2017. 57 Brian Grow, supra, N. 13. 58 United States v. Juror No. One, 866 F. Supp2d 442 (2011). 59 Brian Grow, supra, N. 13. 27