Juror’s Mid-Trial Tweets Not Enough for New Trial
October 31, 2016
This month, in a case of first impression in Florida, the Fourth District Court of Appeal held that statements posted by a juror on social media during trial were insufficiently prejudicial to require a new trial. The juror posted a series of tweets on his Twitter account during jury selection and trial which included: a) “I got picked as a juror … I hate this s___. I’m so pissed, I even half assed all my answers and I dressed terrible;” b) Being a juror isn’t bad, people I’m working with are pretty cool. But I still hate the fact that I have to be here all day;” and c) Everyone is so money hungry that they’ll do anything for it.”
These tweets were clearly improper and in violation of the trial court’s repeated instructions to the jury. Nevertheless, after four post-trial hearings and a juror interview, the trial court took no action against the juror and denied the plaintiff’s motion for a new trial. The Fourth District affirmed, finding no abuse of discretion by the trial court.
In Murphy v. Roth, 204 So. 3d 43 (Fla 4th DCA 2016), the court wrote, “There is no evidence that any of the other jurors saw, or had any discussions about, Juror 5’s tweets. Moreover, nothing in the plain language of Juror 5’s tweets discusses any facts specific to this case or the parties involved. Thus, it cannot be said that the trial court abused its discretion in concluding that Juror 5 misinterpreted the scope of the trial court’s instruction not to post about his jury service and that he did not intentionally violate the court’s order. While Juror 5’s tweets are potentially offensive on a number of levels, the trial court acted within its discretion to interview Juror 5, assess his credibility and, in doing so, deny Plaintiff’s motion for a new trial based thereon.”