British Juror Gets 3 Months for Researching Defendant Online, Resulting in Mistrial
Posted Jan 23, 2012 3:23 PM CDT
By Martha Neil
A British university lecturer found guilty of contempt for ignoring a Luton Crown Court order and doing Internet research on the defendant while participating in jury deliberations in a criminal trial last summer has been sentenced to a six-month jail term by a three-judge High Court panel.
Theodora Dallas, 34, who will be conditionally released halfway through the six-month term, insisted she had misunderstood the court's prohibition against conducting online research, the Telegraph reports. She explained, in a written witness statement, that "sometimes my grasp of English is not that good."
Her lawyer had sought a suspended sentence, but the Lord Chief Justice said in the High Court's ruling was needed to protect the judicial system.
"In the long run, any system which allows itself to be treated with contempt faces extinction," he stated. "That is a possibility we cannot countenance."
Dallas' misconduct was reportedly brought to the trial judge's attention by another juror or jurors, after she told other members of the panel about her online research concerning the defendant in a grievous bodily harm case. He had, as she discovered on the Internet, been previously accused, but not convicted, of rape.
The judge investigated and declared a mistrial.
Dallas said she resigned from her position as a psychology lecturer at the University of Bedfordshire as a result of the contempt case against her and has been depressed and worried by the situation.