Jurors Getting “Friendly” on Facebook

Jurors Getting “Friendly” on Facebook

A recent case from the Supreme Court of Kentucky provides insight into how courts view social media and the legal process. In Sluss v. Commonwealth, two jurors stated during the voir dire process that did not know the victim or the family of the victim. One of jurors also stated that she did not use Facebook. However, it later came to light that both jurors were “friends” with the mother of the victim on Facebook. The Court found that being Facebook “friends” is not dispositive of having an actual friendship, especially in this situation where one of the jurors had close to 2,000 Facebook “friends.” However, the Court found the jurors’ misstatements about not having a Facebook account and not having knowledge about the case foreclosed the Appellant’s opportunity to conduct a proper voir dire of the jurors.

After completion of the trial, the Supreme Court of Kentucky remanded the case to determine the extent of the relationships on Facebook and the potential issues with the false answers provided during the voir dire process. The Court also directed the trial court to determine whether the Defendant received a fair trial before an impartial jury. After review, the Supreme Court instructed the trial court to either issue a new trial or the findings of fact requested.

As social media becomes more widespread, issues potentially undermining the integrity of the adjudicative process become more prevalent. Lawyers have an increased duty to their clients to fully research and explore possible implications that arise via social media.