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Murderer appeals verdict alleging jurors influenced by blogs

Jurors are only permitted to consider facts presented at trial. Accordingly, jurors are not allowed to read news or other accounts of the trial. We can now add blogs to televison, newspapers, and radio to the media we need to make sure do not influence jurors.

East Brunswick’s Hometown News Tribune’s Rick Malwitz reports a convicted murderer is appealing a verdict because jurors may have been influenced by bloggers. Arguments by the attorneys will be heard by the trial court tomorrow on the defense motion for a new trial.

Apparently the murder trial was widely publicized. “In addition to aggressive coverage by area newspapers, the trial was covered live by Court TV and was discussed in lively, unfettered blogs on the Home News Tribune and Court TV Web sites.”

During the closing arguments an issue unrelated to blog influence caused the judge to interview each of the jurors seprately in the presence of both the defense and prosecuting attorneys. It was during the interviews that the question of jurors reading blogs came up.

One of the alternative jurors dismised before closing arguents and deliberations (routine practice) told the judge she had been ‘catching up on the case … reading about it on the Internet.’ Based on the research, the juror told the judge ‘I am the one w/ hard eyes and I intrigue the bloggers.’

The judge got concerned with the mention of ‘hard eyes.’ How did the jury know that a blogger referred to someone on the panel as having hard eyes? Another juror said it likely came from a conversation she had with her sister, who had unfettered access to blogs.

In addition, in the pending defense motion for a new trial, defense counsel stated that ‘virtually every juror reported discussing the blogs’ in their seperate interviews.

Jurors being informed of blog coverage, reading blogs, or discussing blog coverage of trial issues could allow for a new trial. Will be interesting to hear how the trial court judge rules tomorrow.

Even if the trial court judge denies the defenses motion for a new trial, the issue will certainly go up to the court of appeals.

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