Expect Jail Time, Judge Tells Prospective Juror Who Googled Murder Defendant, Flouting Written Order
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Earlier this year a Florida judge had to declare a mistrial in a high-profile murder case after multiple members of the jury pool gossiped with each other about the defendant during breaks in the selection process.
So when he recently began a new first-degree murder trial involving a different defendant, Hillsborough Circuit Judge William Fuente took no chances. He gave each member of the jury pool an individual written order not to do any research about defendant Kenneth Ray Jackson or talk to anyone about the capital case. Plus, the judge reminded the group before every break about the no-discussion rule, the Tampa Bay Times reports.
Nonetheless, one member allegedly violated the judge’s order. Outed by another member of the jury pool, Vishnu P. Singh admittedly Googled the defendant’s name, but said, when contacted by a Times reporter after being sent home on Wednesday, that he hadn’t learned much. He denied talking about the case with other members of the jury pool, as someone else told the judge he had, the newspaper article recounts.
He also told the newspaper he barely even recalled the written order distributed by Fuente: “I remember a piece of paper,” he said. “I didn’t read the whole thing.”
Clearly angry after learning of the violation of his order, the judge told Singh to leave a valid address with the bailiff and expect jail time for his transgression, presumably after being held in contempt of court.
Singh said he can’t afford legal counsel, but plans to send the judge with a letter of apology. He also guesses that others in the jury pool Googled the defendant, too.
ABAJournal.com: “Jury Pool Gossip Likely Will Cause a Year’s Delay in Murder Trial; Fla. Judge Dismisses All Members”
ABAJournal.com: “New Model Jury Instructions Tell Jurors to Turn in Others Who Flout Social Media Ban”