The trial court has the authority to order a juror to turn over to the court Facebook postings about the trial, said the Third District Court of Appeal in Juror Number One v. Superior Court (May 31, 2012, C067309), __ Cal.App.4th __ [2012 DJDAR 7216].
After defendants were convicted of various offenses arising out of the beating of a young man on Halloween night, the court learned that one of the jurors had posted items on his Facebook account while the trial was in progress. Upon inquiry, Juror Number One admitted that he had posted items about the trial, but said the posts contained nothing about the case or the evidence. The court found that there was misconduct by Juror Number One, but was unsure as to the degree.
Following the hearing, counsel for defendant issued a subpoena for the posts to Facebook, which moved to quash the subpoena on the ground that disclosure would violate the Stored Communications Act. Facebook asserted that the information could be obtained from Juror Number One. When defense counsel subpoenaed Juror Number One, he moved to quash. The court granted Juror Number One's motion to quash based on overbreadth, but ordered the juror to turn over all the posts for an in camera review. Juror Number One filed a petition to bar the enforcement of this order.
The order was not an abuse of the court's authority, said the appellate court. The SCA protects against disclosure by an internet service provider or electronic communications facility, not the user who provides the information. Juror Number One did not show he had any expectation of privacy in the posts and, in any event, whatever privacy interest he had was outweighed by the defendant's right to a fair trial, especially considering that the court found that misconduct had occurred. The court could properly inquire further to determine if the misconduct was prejudicial.