Wednesday, March 18, 2009

PA: Sen. Fumo Trial Twittered Guilty Appeal in Works

As it should be for true justice. Really in this day and age, jurors should know better than to initiate any outside contact while a trial is ongoing. And while posting or making announcements, did the PA juror 'see' anything that might have influenced judgement on the Fumo trial?

The prosecution proved it case, and while the jury deliberated and judged guilty on 137 counts, the outcome is not real justice. It's tainted.

The judge should've removed the juror once it became known during the trial such was happening. An alternate could have served.

Jurors' smartphones upset the scales of justice
By John Schwartz Published: March 17, 2009

...On Monday, defense lawyers in the federal corruption trial of a former Pennsylvania state senator, Vincent J. Fumo, demanded that the judge declare a mistrial after a juror posted updates on the case on Twitter and Facebook. The juror even told his readers that a "big announcement" was coming on Monday. But the judge decided to let the trial continue, and the jury found Mr. Fumo guilty. His lawyers plan to use the Internet postings as grounds for appeal.

Posted on Tue, Mar. 17, 2009
Judge finds blogging by juror benign, but legal opinion varies
Philadelphia Daily News 215-854-5880

"Thou shalt not Twitter."

That's what Edward Ohlbaum, a Temple University law professor, suggested should be the 11th Commandment of proposed jury instructions for the courts in the Internet Age.

That was Ohlbaum's reaction yesterday to the blogging juror, Eric Wuest, 35, of Collegeville, who had posted status updates on Facebook and Twitter social networking Web sites about the federal corruption trial of former state Sen. Vincent Fumo since last September.

While prominent attorneys agreed new jury instructions are necessary, they were split about whether issues raised by the blogging juror were appealable.

In part, that was because U.S. District Judge Ronald Buckwalter denied a defense request for a mistrial in a 45-minute hearing in his chambers. The judge found Wuest credible when he said he did not discuss the trial with anyone.

"We're devastated about the outcome," said Fumo attorney NiaLena Caravasos, who expects the juror's actions to be a part of post-trial motions.

"We're in a whole new world - where once-private thoughts are shared instantaneously with all to see on the Internet," she added, calling a blogging juror "a novel" legal issue.

Robert Zauzmer - chief of federal appeals, who prosecuted Fumo - said, "The blogger made a few posts, but nothing of substance. It's not a significant problem at all."

Wuest "should have known better," said several attorneys, after learning he worked for a Center City law firm as a benefits coordinator.

But Wuest showed no remorse yesterday.

"The judge heard the story; the judge decided on the story," he told reporters. "What were my postings, but announcements? I wasn't discussing the case - I was discussing that we were done."

In fact, Wuest posted oblique comments throughout the trial, not just, "Stay tuned for a big announcement on Monday everyone!" which he posted Friday.

Wuest admitted in the judge's chambers that he panicked and deleted his postings after watching TV news on Sunday night about a juror - i.e., him - blogging about the trial.

"This particular juror flouted the authority of the court," said Sayde Ladov, chancellor of the Philadelphia Bar Association. "It's definitely an appealable issue."

Posted on Tue, Mar. 17, 2009
Fumo: Jury says "Guilty" 137 times
Philadelphia Daily News 215-854-2656

HE WAS a political powerhouse in Harrisburg who boasted of securing $8 billion in state largesse for Philadelphia.

He had about 90 state-paid aides and contractors at his beck and call to do his personal and political bidding.

He paid a private eye with state money to spy on his political enemies and tapped a tax-exempt nonprofit he founded to finance a lawsuit against a powerful Senate rival.

But today, former state Sen. Vince Fumo stands as a disgraced pol after a federal jury of 10 women and two men yesterday found him guilty on 137 counts of conspiracy, fraud, obstruction of justice and related offenses.

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