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Juror's Undisclosed MySpace Friendship Secures New Trial for Convicted Felon

In West Virginia v. Dellinger, the West Virginia Supreme Court held that a juror's failure to disclose her MySpace "friendship" with the criminal defendant violated the defendant's constitutional right to a fair and impartial jury.  In Dellinger, the defendant, a sheriff, was convicted of multiple felonies relating to the fraudulent administration of a grant program.  The juror in question was a MySpace "friend" of the defendant and posted a message on the defendant's MySpace page one week before trial.  During voir dire, the juror was asked whether she had any social relationship with the defendant. However, the juror did not acknowledge her MySpace "friendship," and the defendant did not realize that the juror and his MySpace "friend" were one in the same until after the trial. 

The court noted that a criminal defendant has a fundamental and constitutional right to trial by an impartial jury. Although the juror testified that she did not really feel that she knew the defendant, the Court felt otherwise.  The Court held that the facts, and the juror's silence during voir dire, resulted in a presumption of bias. Thus, the Court ordered a new trial.

Takeaway

The next time you are called for jury duty, be candid about your social networking relationships. Failure to disclose online "friendships" may have significant consequences. 

Categories: Social Media

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focuses his practice in the areas of Michigan non-property tax disputes, business entity selection, corporate transactions, and information technology.

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