Juror gets 8 months for using Facebook

Posted by Mark Raby

A UK woman who admitted to contacting a defendant while she was on the jury of her trial will be imprisoned for eight months.

40-year-old Joanne Fraill was probably just trying to make the boring job of jury duty a bit more interesting when she contacted Jamie Stewart, a defendant who was part of the extensive drug trial Fraill was selected for.

Stewart had already been acquitted in the trial when Fraill contacted her, according to the Register. She received a two-month sentence, suspended for two years because she had to care for a young child.

However, the rest of the trial collapsed after Fraill's Facebook activity came to light. The judge was forced to dismiss the entire jury and declare a mistrial, costing taxpayers an estimated six million pounds (around $10 million), and Fraill, the juror, ended up becoming her own defendant.

Fraill was charged with contempt of court for failing to comply with orders that explicitly state members of a jury cannot have any outside communication with anyone involved in the case. Adding insult to injury, it was also discovered that Fraill had Googled Stewart's boyfriend Gary Knox, who was another defendant in the case.

Curiosity killed the cat, although in this case it ended up costing Fraill eight months in prison. The whole episode highlights just how prevalent social networking has become around the world, and is seeping into the legal system. This case could be used as a cornerstone for amending jury instructions in the future.