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Facebook Friends Cause Appeal?

gavel copyOnly in 2009 could social networking site Facebook interfere with a trial. Right now, Baltimore mayor Sheila Dixon is being convicted of embezzlement.  Defense lawyers say that Dixon used donated gift cards which were supposed to go to a local charity, on her and her family.

The trial has already had a rocky start with one juror possibly being charged by withholding a possible conflict of interest.  In 2006 Shawana Tyler, entered a contest sponsored by the city for a shopping spree to fill a shopping cart up with as much food as you can in 2 minutes.  Tyler thought the grocery store sponsored the contest and doesn’t remember seeing the mayor there.  But photos from the event, archived by the Baltimore Times show the two standing next to each other, while Dixon gave a speech.

Now it’s the other jurors who are stirring up the mix.  It seems that over a four day break for Thanksgiving, half of the jurors, which consists of 9 women and 3 men, friended each other on Facebook.  However, Dixon’s lawyers say that’s an issue for appeals, since Judge Dennis M. Sweeny asked jurors to keep a low profile and to not communicate with each other outside of the jury room.  However, there are no laws which state Facebook as a form of communication, although it clearly is. 

The Baltimore times found comments written on some of the jurors walls and said in a recent article:

During the four-day break in deliberations for Thanksgiving, [juror No. 3, Shiron] Davis invited Juror No. 12, James Chaney, to her Edmondson Village apartment for Thanksgiving dinner. The Sunday before deliberations resumed, Juror No. 11, Elaine Pollack, wrote to Chaney, “Hi James! Ready for round……..oh I lost count! See you tomorrow!”

He replied: “Yeah it’s probably round 12 or 13 but im ready i guess. Hopefully it will be the last round.”

“Al,” a person not on the jury, added a comment to that online conversation that read: “Not guilty …” After the verdict, Davis wrote: “NO AL, GUILTY AS HELL…SORRY.”

Prosecutors in the case believe the statements are harmless, however the matter is fully being looked into.  The trial has been placed on hold until the matter is fully investigated.

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