Appellate Practice

Juror Facebook Contact, $324 Food Prize Could Cause Mistrial in Baltimore Mayor's Case

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After a high-profile conviction last week on a misdemeanor charge concerning $600 worth of Best Buy and Target gift cards embezzled for her personal use, Baltimore’s first female mayor is down but not out.

Nearly half of the jury members friended each other on Facebook, despite the judge’s instructions not to communicate with each other outside the jury room, reports the Baltimore Sun.

And another basis for defense lawyers to argue for a mistrial is an undisclosed $324 grocery prize that a juror won in a contest in 2006.

The juror who won the prize, 23-year-old Shawana Tyler, said she thought the contest was sponsored by the supermarket at which she filled a grocery cart for free. But in fact the sponsor was a city agency, and a city representative who was a witness at Dixon’s trial appeared with Tyler when the sweepstakes prize was presented, the newspaper recounts.

“That’s bias, certainly enough for the defense to argue that it’s bias,” says Thaddeus Hoffmeister. He is a law professor at the University of Dayton.

Additional coverage:

Christian Science Monitor: “Baltimore Mayor Sheila Dixon convicted of embezzling gift cards”

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