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Facebook Overshare by Jurors Could Mean Mistrial in Murder Case

What’s on your mind? Social media is ubiquitous, but for two jurors in a Michigan murder trial, it would have been better not to share.

Terry Wilson, 21, of Clinton Township may receive a mistrial verdict after two jurors in his case used social media to vent about the frustration over being chosen for jury duty. (Photo: Macomb County Sheriff’s Office)
Terry Wilson, 21, of Clinton Township may receive a mistrial verdict after two jurors in his case used social media to vent about the frustration over being chosen for jury duty. (Photo: Macomb County Sheriff’s Office)

Two jurors in the trial of a Michigan man accused of murdering his lifelong friend took to Facebook to vent about their time in the jury box, and now prosecutors may have to start over again.

Comments made on their public Facebook pages by jurors Harvey Labadie and Gary Ludwig suggest they were predisposed to a guilty verdict against defendant Terry Wilson before deliberations began, according to a motion for a mistrial filed last Wednesday by Wilson’s attorney, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Wilson, 21, is accused of killing Willie Clark, 24, after a confrontation at Prince Drewry Park in May 2013. During his trial on open murder charges, he claimed self defense and said that he was afraid of Clark.

“I argued because of my pride,” he testified, according to a report in The Macomb Daily. “I didn’t shoot him because of my pride. “He was basically galloping towards me. I shot him, I was trying to protect myself.”

In their motion for a mistrial, Wilson’s lawyers claim two comments made by Labadie suggest that he was already in favor of a certain verdict before deliberations began.

On May 28, Labadie posted an emoticon that said he was “feeling bored.” On May 31, he posted another comment:

“Jury duty still going on Monday which will be the fourth day. Hopefully the last day. I was told there is no way you will be on a jury the first time getting called. LIARS.”

But Labadie wasn’t the only juror posting on Facebook during the trial in Macomb County Circuit Court in Mount Clemens.

Juror Gary Ludwig also used Facebook during the trial, the defense said.

The law firm representing Terry L. Wilson discovered the Facebook post the same day Wilson was found guilty. The defense attorneys argue that Wilson’s right to a fair and impartial jury was violated, USA Today reports.

Labadie along with Ludwig may have put what was a guilty verdict in jeopardy. Labadie continues to use Facebook as an outlet posting Tuesday:

“When I wrote that I was bored in the jury room, I was in a big room with 160 other people watching the view. I wasn't picked for a jury until later that day. I was NOT the foreman. I never had a predisposed thought what the verdict would be. I did nothing wrong contrary to what some think.”

Ubiquitous use of social media has perplexed other jurists as well.

An auto negligence case in Boca Raton, FL, has one judge perplexed about how to move forward after finding out that jurors were posting comments to Facebook during trial. Judge Janis Brustares Keyser told the Palm Beach Post that there is little law to guide her.

Tell Us:

  • Should cell phones be banned in courtrooms? Do you think the Facebook posts by Labadie and Ludwig were enough to constitute a mistrial?

This isn’t Wilson’s first brush with the law. Wilson served 22 months in jail after he was convicted of breaking and entering in a 2010 Wayne County case, Clinton Township Patch reports. He also has a previous felony firearms conviction, USA Today reports.

A hearing on the motions for mistrial will be held June 16. It has not been determined whether either juror will face sanctions for the Facebook postings, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Assistant Macomb County Prosecutor Jurij Fedorak prosecuted the case and told the Macomb Daily that the “innocuous” nature of the Facebook comments wouldn’t warrant a reversal.

If a mistrial isn’t granted, Wilson could spend the rest of his life in prison. Sentencing is currently scheduled for July 8 before Judge Jennifer Faunce.


ALSO ON PATCH


Ken June 11, 2014 at 01:53 PM
hope some jail time will follow
Mary A. Daniels June 11, 2014 at 06:34 PM
We are not given all the posts, so it's hard to say if they justify a mistrial, but it's clear that judges will now have to advise jurors not to use social media about or during jury duty. Doing so in spite of this instruction would be Contempt of Court.
Michele Goecke June 12, 2014 at 08:01 AM
In the oakland county courts no phones are allowed. I had to sit through a trial for a research paper for a law class and was told no recording devices or cell phones were allowed in any court room. I took notes the old fashion way with a pen and paper. I agree with this rule. We as a society have become so detached from the real world. Leaving these devices for a short time is actually a good thing. Secondly someone's freedom is on the line and I believe they deserve to have the people judging them to have their full attention on the trial not on Twitter or Facebook. If this leads to a mistrial think of the heartbreak that the victims family has to endure yet again not to mention the money spent to start a new trial.
Tom B June 12, 2014 at 03:57 PM
These jurors made a big mistake and IT SHOULD BE COSTLY FOR THEM and not me, the taxpayer.
Gary Ludwig June 12, 2014 at 09:25 PM
This is Bullshit and out of context! I posted those while waiting to get picked in the holding room with all the jurors BEFORE WE WERE PICKED!! The other post came AFTER THE VERDICT! We were allowed to do that. I'm disgusted my integrity is in question when I DID NOTHING WRONG!!!

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