A former Cincinnati city councilman’s lawyers want a forensic audit of one juror’s phone, who posted about the trial on Facebook.
The lawyers learned “Juror X” had violated the judge’s clear instruction against communicating about the trial while they were jurors. When questioned, Juror X indicated another jury member may have harbored bias against politicians.
Sixth Circuit states, such as Ohio, require a defense team prove jury communications during a trial influenced the verdict. So, they have asked for a court order to do a deep dive into Juror X’s mobile device to find evidence supporting their claim of impropriety.
The Epoch Times further reported:
The controversy over Juror X dates to July 8, just before the verdict was announced in Cole’s courtroom. A courthouse staff member reported that Juror X had posted on Facebook throughout Sittenfeld’s trial, despite the judge’s repeated warnings that jurors were barred from communicating with anyone about the case.
In a recent opinion, Cole stated, “Juror X violated the plain language of the court’s instruction,” but he found no proof that she was improperly influenced against Sittenfeld. Right after the verdict was read, Cole allowed lawyers to question Juror X, who had communicated with at least 29 non-jurors via social media during the trial. Juror X also suggested that Juror Y “might harbor a general bias against politicians.” As a result, Juror Y was also questioned in a behind-closed-doors hearing.
In an Aug. 3 order, Judge Cole allowed lawyers to question two other jurors about any possible improper influences. The judge initially filed that order under seal, and local news media were fighting to have it unsealed.
Cole wrote that the seal would be lifted after lawyers in the case finished interviewing the two additional jurors, who were to be selected by Sittenfeld’s attorneys.
That procedure represented a compromise, the judge wrote. Cole didn’t want to grant “free-wheeling access” to jurors’ information, but he did believe that Sittenfeld’s lawyers were entitled to explore “whether the jury improperly considered extraneous information.”
So far, four of Sittenfield’s 12 jurors—one-third of the panel—have been subjected to post-trial questioning about any improper influence on the verdict. Legal observers say that these complications could have been avoided if Juror X had abided by the judge’s order to refrain from communications.
Mark Krumbein, a Cincinnati-area lawyer for almost four decades, said: “It’s amazing and also upsetting. For some reason, there seems to be a constant pushback from jurors … There’s a tendency for the jurors to just ignore the judge’s strict instructions. It should be simple, that they’re not supposed to get any extraneous information from any source about what they’re dealing with in court.”
It is unclear if criminal charges would apply if evidence on the phone proves Juror X’s verdict was unduly influenced by outside communications.