South Boston News & Record
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Facebook exchange puts kink in jury trial A Facebook post that cast doubt on the impartiality of a
SoVaNow.com / October 14, 2013
A Facebook post that cast doubt on the impartiality of a potential jury member forced a delay in a criminal trial set Thursday in Halifax County Circuit Court.
The social media commentary prompted Circuit Judge Joel Cunningham to order a new jury pool in the case, which has been continued to a later date.
The defendant is John Phillip Martin of Scottsburg, who was scheduled to be tried for attempted capital murder, carjacking, felony eluding, identity fraud and associated firearm cases. He was originally due in court on Wednesday, but his attorneys, who had just been hired weeks before, asked to continue the case so they could better prepare.
The judge agreed to push the jury trial back one day, to Thursday, Oct. 10.
Prior to jury selection Thursday morning, the court was made aware of a posting on Facebook that seemed to indicate that some of the potential jurors might not be impartial. According to Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael Freshour, the Facebook message, from an unidentified person, came in response to information that the trial was to start on Wednesday morning. The commentor expressed the hope that justice would be done, which itself did not raise questions of juror impartiality.
However, someone posted in response that he or she had spoken to some potential jurors and that the poster believed those individuals would make sure justice was done.
The judge determined that the message raised questions about the ability of the defendant to receive a fair trial insofar as some potential jurors may have made a decision about the outcome of the case before hearing any evidence. This appearance of impropriety resulted in the Court’s continuing the matter to a date in the future with another jury pool.
“I am very disappointed that this trial had to be continued, especially for this reason,” said Freshour in a statement. “However, it is important that each and every defendant is afforded a fair trial. Unfortunately, it has become increasingly common for social media to impose its presence in the courts resulting in mistrials and continuances in many jurisdictions in the Commonwealth.”
CommentsWhy doesn't "make sure justice is done" mean just that. Typical nonsense of having a problem just for the sake of having a problem. Nothing in that statement leads me to believe the jury is leading more towards acquittal than they are guilty.
- By Mark on 10 / 15 / 13
CommentsIf this had not come to light now and the accused was found guilty, his lawyers could call for a mistrial. It's far better to be sure all I's are dotted and all T's are crossed-a lesson Mike Freshour has, I believe, learned the hard way.
- By Indignant on 10 / 17 / 13
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