Facebook Contempt: Juror's Friend Request Sends Her to Jail for 8 Months

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on June 17, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

From here on out, Joanne Fraill will be known for committing Facebook contempt.

For contacting a former defendant in an ongoing drug trial for which she was a juror, the mother of six was sentenced to 8 months in jail on contempt charges brought by prosecutors upset that her actions had initiated a mistrial.

The judge found the Facebook contempt especially infuriating since taxpayers had already spent $10 million to conduct the halted proceedings.

As is par for the course both in the U.S. and abroad, upon becoming a juror, Joanne Fraill was instructed not to contact any of the parties involved in the criminal trial, as well as to refrain from using the internet to seek outside information on the case.

Not only did she look up information on one of the defendants, The Guardian reports that she sent a friend request on Facebook to a former defendant who was acquitted of all charges.

The two then exchanged Facebook messages about the trial and jury deliberations.

Though this particular Facebook Juror was sentenced by a British court, social media has also caused a wide variety of problems in the U.S.

Dozens of mistrials, contempt proceedings, and overturned verdicts have resulted from jurors misusing the internet.

A glut of taxpayer money has also been spent to vet potential jurors and sequester them so that they don't have access to social media, such as with the Casey Anthony trial currently in process.

Despite the damage that was done, 8 months seems a little harsh by American standards, where oftentimes jurors are fined or spend a few days behind bars. However, it seems like the British took the right approach on this one.

They used Joanne Fraill to send a message that any future Facebook contempt incidents will be punished harshly and swiftly.

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