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.
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.
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