I recently read a blog post by a New York criminal defense attorney, Nicole Black, about a juror’s misconduct in a criminal case. The juror had sent a Facebook “friend” request to a witness while the trial was pending. (Jurors are supposed to remain absolutely objective and not communicate with any witnesses or parties during trial). The witness later testified that he had no idea who this “friend” was, and ignored the request. The Court ruled “no harm, no foul” and refused to reverse the verdict based on the misconduct.
But the story makes an important point about today’s juries. Social media, including Facebook, are a relatively new phenomena and courts, and lawyers, continue to struggle with how to deal with them. While I know that the judge will instruct the jurors that they are not to google or use social media or any outside sources too “look up” the witnesses and parties, I am convinced that many jurors disobey these orders.
That’s one reason why the New York personal injury lawyers at Michaels & Smolak make sure our clients are aware of their “exposure” on Facebook and other social media. What would a jury think if they saw your Facebook page? Would the jury see that photo of you dancing and think it was taken AFTER your injury, when in fact it was taken before? Would the jury see that photo of you partying with your friends and draw negative inferences about you? These are serious concerns to a personal injury lawyer who wants to present his client in the best possible light to the jury.
And although some jurors may disobey the judge’s instructions and look you up on Facebook, it is almost a certainty that the insurance company and its lawyers, who are trying to torpedo your case, will do so. And don’t assume the “security” features can keep anyone out, especially someone as intent on getting in as an insurance company lawyer. They will look for every possible photo or statement in your Facebook page and try to contort its meaning to undermine your claim. They may even confront you with your Facebook page in Court!
Moral of the story? Look carefully at your Facebook page. And talk to your New York personal injury lawyer about it