Constitutional Law

Judge Rescinds Order to Seize Home Computers of Juror Accused of Web-Surfing During Trial


Updated: A federal judge in Florida has reconsidered an ex parte order issued on Friday, telling marshals to seize the home computers of a juror who was quoted in a newspaper article as saying that she had conducted Internet research on the defendant in a high-profile trial.

However, U.S. District Judge James Moody said the juror, Terri Wright, must bring the hard drive of any computer she owns to the next hearing in the Tampa case, on Feb. 19, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

Moody changed his mind after a prosecutor questioned whether the order, which was made during a telephone conference between the judge and lawyers in the case, had adequately addressed privacy and due-process issues.

Defense lawyers are seeking a new trial for reggae star Buju Banton, 39. He was convicted in 2011 in a drug case.

Wright testified at a previous hearing that she did Internet research after the verdict in Banton’s case, not during the trial. An examination of her hard drive is planned to check whether she was telling the truth.

A Tampa Tribune article last week says the judge also plans to subpoena other jurors who decided the case, to hear what they have to say about the alleged Internet research.

Defense counsel for Banton contends that the jury was swayed by Wright and information she obtained through Web surfing to convict Banton instead of acquitting him.

The Broward/Palm Beach New Times reported last year on its The Pulp page that Wright said in an exclusive interview she researched some issues in the case during trial so that she would be ready to deal with them during deliberations. She said: “I would get in the car, just write my notes down so I could remember, and I would come home and do the research,” the newspaper reported in October.

Updated at 5:40 p.m. to include additional coverage from Tampa Tribune and Broward/Palm Beach New Times.

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