Federal prosecutors are not charging Buju Banton's jury forewoman with contempt of court, even though Terri Wright's admitted misconduct revealed in a New Times story forced them to drop a firearms charge against the reggae singer.
According to the Miami Herald, the decision not to punish Wright stems from prosecutors refusal to juggle opposing Banton's latest appeal and prosecuting the woman who told New Times last year that she had gone home after the trial and used the Internet to gain a better grasp on what had occurred there.
Because Wright conducted outside research into the trial -- a violation of court rules -- Banton might have an easier time appealing his other charges of conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine.
Curious and Internet-equipped jurors are an epidemic within the legal system these days, with verdicts continually called into question after evidence emerges that outside information has seeped into what are supposed to be closed deliberations. In 2009, the New York Times even coined the phrase "Google Mistrial."
The question becomes how to handle the jurors, who are oftentimes breaching the rules in a misguided attempt to do a good job.
Of course, there are the assholes who are found in contempt for their flagrant disrespect of the rules, like the Sarasota man who was jailed after he "friended" a defendant on Facebook and later bragged in a status update about how the gesture got him out of jury duty.
But there are also others who, like Wright, seem think think they're committing a minor act of civil disobedience by disobeying judge's orders to bone up on legal terms. While the guy from Sarasota was using social media to gawk at a woman he was supposed to judge impartially, Wright was trying to understand the Pinkerton liability rule, which would have implicated Banton in the ownership of a co-conspirator's gun.
The penalties for contempt can range from a wrist-slap to significant jail time. On the extreme end of the spectrum is the English woman who was given six months in jail for conducting independent research in January of last year.
"They can fine, they can jail, they can make them stand on one leg," said Ed Griffith at the State Attorney's Office in Florida. "The judge can have a great deal of levity."
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