Juror Goes on Social Media Rant – No New Trial

I once had a case where a prospective juror went on Facebook during  a break in voir dire to make some rather colorful comments about the process. That juror was dismissed. This is a post about a juror whose social media posts were not uncovered until after the trial. Warning – a few of the tweets feature obscene language.

In this car accident case, the juror – Juror 5 – waited until the middle of the trial to go on a twitter rant. Several of the tweets are cited in the opinion, but it turns out they are still up on Twitter and make for classic insight into the mind of a juror:

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“After conducting two hearings, the trial court granted the motion for juror interview. During the interview, Juror 5 admitted that the Twitter account in question, although titled under a pseudonym, was his and that he posted all of the tweets at issue. The trial court asked Juror 5 about his understanding of the court’s instruction to not communicate about the case or his jury service on social media. Juror 5 responded that he thought the instruction “pretty much” meant “don’t talk about the case.” Juror 5 testified that he did not tweet while sitting in the courtroom during the trial and that he did not intentionally or deliberately disobey the court’s order regarding the use of social media. Finally, Juror 5 denied telling anyone else his views about the case at any time prior to the commencement of deliberations.”

The Plaintiff moved for a new trial, pursuant to Rule 1.530, and the trial court ultimately denied the motion.

On appeal, the Fourth DCA reviewed the Motion for New Trial using an abuse of discretion standard. The Fourth DCa noted that (1) “the trial court necessarily credited and accepted Juror 5’s explanation that this misconduct was neither intentional nor willful, and that none of his tweets related specifically to this case”; (2) “There is no evidence that any of the other jurors saw, or had any discussions about, Juror 5’s tweets”; and (3) “nothing in the plain language of Juror 5’s tweets discusses any facts specific to this case or the parties involved.”

The Plaintiff also alleged that the tweet “[e]veryone is so money hungry that they’ll do anything for it” implied the juror was biased. However, the Fourth DCA notes that the juror expressed similar opinions during voir dire, such as: some people sue “just for the money” or for “dumb reasons.”

Ultimately, the Fourth DCA upheld the trial court’s denial of Plaintiff’s Motion for New Trial finding that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying the motion.

This case is also notable for including a definition of Twitter:

“Twitter is a real-time information network that lets people share and discuss what is happening at a particular moment in time through the use of ‘tweets,’ updates composed of 140 characters or less. The service allows users either to Direct Message (DM) specific individuals or to use ‘twitter posts’ accessible to the public. The process of posting messages on Twitter is commonly referred to as ‘tweeting.’ ” Dimas-Martinez v. State, 385 S.W. 3d 238, 243 n.3 (Ark. 2011) (citation omitted).

MICHELE L. MURPHY v. MICHAEL B. ROTH, Case No. 4D14-4830 (Fla. 4th DCA Oct 5, 2016)