November 9, 2007 8:17 AM PST

Police Blotter: Did blogging juror affect DUI trial?

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Police Blotter is a weekly News.com report on the intersection of technology and the law.

What: Defendant convicted of drunk driving and felony intimidation of a police officer appeals, saying a juror should not have been blogging during the trial.

When: Ohio Court of Appeals, Sixth District, rules on November 2.

Outcome: Conviction upheld and request for new trial denied.

What happened, according to court documents and other sources:
Ohio police found Jeffrey Goehring one evening in September 2005 on the side of the road trying to drive a truck out of a ditch, with little luck. The rear tires were spinning.

Goehring's girlfriend said she was the driver, and she was promptly arrested after police claimed she shows signs of being intoxicated. Goehring became confrontational, was squirted with pepper spray in his eyes, and then tossed into the back of a police car.

During the ride to the Ottawa County jail, Goehring allegedly was yelling at Patrolman Eric Parker, saying: "When I get out of jail, I'm coming for you. You're a dead man. I'm coming to your house to get you." Similar threats were allegedly captured on videotape at the police station.

Prosecutors charged Goehring with a litany of offenses: driving with a suspended license, driving under the influence of alcohol, intimidation of a public servant, intimidation of a witness, and criminal damage for kicking at the police car's door. The intimidation counts are felonies. A jury convicted him in April 2006 on all counts, and he was sentenced to eight years and nine months in prison.

After the jury's verdict, Goehring's defense counsel discovered that one of the jurors was blogging about the case--both before and after the guilty verdict was announced. Alleging juror misconduct, Goehring asked for a new trial, which the judge denied.

Blogging jurors have become both a window into how the court system works and a headache for judges. A Law.com article noted one case in New Hampshire about a blogging juror who called criminal defendants "riff-raff."

Legal blogs have puzzled over the question of what kind of court-blogging is permissible. There's a roundup of juror-bloggers and even live-blogging taken from Wi-Fi-equipped courtrooms.

In Goehring's case, the appeal didn't work. An Ohio appeals court ruled that the trial judge did not abuse his discretion, and it upheld the guilty verdict.

Excerpts from appeals court's opinion:
In appellant's motion for a new trial, based upon newly discovered evidence, and trial counsel's affidavit in support of the motion, counsel indicated that, on July 2, 2006, he was searching for newspaper accounts concerning appellant's sentencing hearing when he inadvertently discovered the "blog" of one of the jurors in appellant's trial.

On April 4, 2006, the first day of appellant's trial, this juror wrote: "Serving on this case just goes to show how opinionated I am. Perhaps I'm more of a leader than I'm willing to give myself credit for. But, I dare anyone to cross me on this verdict." Later in the blog, however, the juror stated: "Well...I can't talk about the case dammit, and that's so highly frustrating."

On April 6, 2006, after the jury had returned its guilty verdict, the juror wrote: "Well, it figures. Had a horrible time not being able to talk about the case. But now after finally having deliberations, it's like bleh, I don't want to talk about (it) anymore...Basically, I feel like I was the only (person) playing devil's advocate and presuming this guy was innocent...." The blog then goes on to discuss the evidence in the case and how the evidence adduced on the second day of trial convinced the juror/blogger that appellant was guilty.

Appellant claimed that the April 4, 2006, blog improperly discussed the case on the first day of trial and showed that the juror had "pre-decided the verdict." Appellant also asserted that this blog contained an implied threat to any jurors that might disagree with him. Appellant urged that the test for juror misconduct was met because the juror in this case "not only composed an online journal regarding the case while the case was still pending, but did so in an area where jurors once acquainted with the 'blogger' from meeting him during jury service could immediately become exposed to public commentary about the case and implied threats against anyone who 'crossed' him in regards to the verdict. Additionally, the existence of the blog and its copies are independent, verifiable evidence that misconduct occurred during the course of the trial."

After holding a hearing, the trial court determined that the comments made on April 4, 2006, did not express any bias as to a guilty or not guilty verdict. The court below further determined that the juror's April 6, 2006, comments were post-verdict; therefore, he could speak freely.

In order to find an abuse of that discretion, we must determine the common pleas court's decision was unreasonable, arbitrary, or unconscionable and not merely an error of law or judgment.

We can find no such abuse. While the profanity used by the juror on his blog on April 4, 2006, may be offensive, that juror makes clear the fact that he cannot discuss the case while it is pending. Further, while the juror states that he is opinionated, there is no indication in the message as to the gist of his opinion. Moreover, there is no evidence in the record of this cause establishing that any of the other 11 jurors saw the blog either during or after appellant's trial. Thus, we find that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in finding that no juror misconduct existed as a result of the April 4, 2006, blog...

The judgment of the Ottawa County Court of Common Pleas is affirmed. Appellant is ordered to pay the costs of this appeal....

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7 comments

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Cruel and unusual punishment
While I agree that this man's threats should be taken seriously and that he should be punished, I am disturbed at the degree to which this sentence goes: 8 yrs 9 mos for a (presumably drunken) rant at the police officers hauling off his girlfriend. If he had killed someone while drunk driving, he might not see a sentence like that.

Let's detail his incarceration here: the cost of feeding, clothing and sheltering this man in a prison; the complete removal of any educational or employment opportunities that could otherwise create better (model citizen) behavior; deprivation of time with loved ones, friends and (consensual) sexual partners; a U.S. economy robbed of another taxpayer.

Surely our judicial system is a bit out of control?
Posted by tlcoles (11 comments )
Reply Link Flag
On both sides, too
And, it's also bad when the criminals get off scott free for procedural technicalities. When they say "justice is blind", I'm not so sure they're refering to the impartiality of the system. Sometimes I think it's the system that is blind to real justice.
Posted by Seaspray0 (9714 comments )
Link Flag
Juror went too far in my opinion
Most Americans assume that they will receive a fair trial with an impartial jury. To have a juror pre-deciding a verdict (in the true meaning of being prejudicial) to me smacks of the very concept of an impartial jury.

I would have like to have seen a mistrial declared and then give careful instruction to a newly empaneled jury. To me, the guilty verdict is tainted, and that is not in the interest of justice.
Posted by irondog1970 (821 comments )
Link Flag
juror!
The Juror should go to jail also. Are you not to keep the case to
yourself till the trial is over?
Posted by macinvilas (8 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Read the story!!
The juror did NOT post issues (or vital content) about the case
during the trial, the juror stated that he/she could not, as much
as they would have wanted to share. They had to remain either
silent to the outside community, or follow whatever the judges
orders were. Posting a one way statement in a blog would not
cause an effect on a juror. You are not reading outside media
that could cause you to slant on the case in front of you when
you post most blogs.

I do agree with the other posters however, that a lot of us have
stances on issues that are hard to set aside. Thus we should not
be chosen for those trials. My personal issues are with
electronics (media) such as RIAA trials as well as gun related
trials. I'm so pro gun I can't be neutral.

I could NEVER serve on one of the RIAA cases with the guidelines
that had been posted after the trial. I'm slanted that the fines
are too great and the violators are the downloaders not the
providers of the files.
Posted by Travis Ernst (170 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Juror should be in jail.discipline is must for everyone.
we should obey the rules.

------------
Katerika

&lt;a href=http://"www.legalx.net" rel="dofollow"&gt;california dui</a>
Posted by katerika (1 comment )
Reply Link Flag
 

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