(CN) – A former jury foreman claims a court order forcing him to disclose the Facebook messages he posted during a gang-related attempted-murder trial violates his privacy rights.
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The juror, identified only as “Juror Number One,” asked for an injunction in Federal Court that would bar the Sacramento County Superior Court from enforcing its February 2011 order requiring him to let Facebook reveal his trial postings.
While serving as foreman in the 2010 criminal trial, the juror claims he “posted on various occasions to his Facebook page to advise his friends that he was serving on the jury.”
“He occasionally posted updates that he was ‘still’ on jury duty and, on one occasion, posted a comment that he was bored during the presentation of cell phone record evidence,” according to his 12-page federal lawsuit.
After the trial and guilty verdict, he allegedly “friended” a fellow juror on Facebook, who spotted his trial comments and alerted defense counsel. The other juror reported juror misconduct, claiming the plaintiff’s postings had included “comments about the evidence during trial,” according to the lawsuit.
Superior Court Judge Michael Kenny held an evidentiary hearing, but concluded that the five jurors who testified, including the foreman, “were credible and were doing their best to be open and honest,” the lawsuit states.
Attorneys for the criminal defendants subpoenaed Facebook for copies of the postings, but the social media giant did not hand them over directly. Instead, it gave the information to the juror’s lawyer and told the criminal defendants to seek it from him.
Defense attorneys then issued a subpoena to the jury foreman, which Judge Kenny quashed as “overbroad.” However, he gave the juror 10 days — until Feb. 14, 2001 — to give Facebook permission to release his trial postings.
The juror appealed the order to the California Supreme Court. While that case was pending, he filed for a temporary restraining order in Federal Court, which was shelved until the case made its way through the state courts. The state high court ultimately declined to overturn an appellate court’s decision to uphold Kenny’s order.
The plaintiff says he expects Kenny to enforce his 2011 order at Friday’s hearing, and wants a federal judge to block him from doing so.
He claims the order violates his Fourth Amendment right to privacy, as well as the privacy rights of Facebook friends who contacted him at that time. He also asserts a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, saying the postings might be used to claim he committed perjury during the evidentiary hearing.
He seeks an injunction pending a full hearing and final ruling. His attorney is Elizabeth Roth in Sacramento.
Defendants in the injunction action include the State of California, Judge Kenny, Facebook and the five criminal trial defendants: George Christian, Tommy Cornelius Jr., Samuel Kemokai Jr., Demetrius Royster and Xavier Whitfield.
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