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Court upholds man's double-murder conviction, but rules one juror has to be hauled before judge to answer questions about Facebook posts during deliberations

The Massachusetts Appeals Court ruled today that Maurice Morrison got a fair trial that led to his second-degree murder conviction for shooting both a Chelsea cab driver and the driver's front-seat passenger in the back of the head in 2013, possibly because the passenger was blackmailing him.

But the court ordered the judge in the case to haul at least one juror from the 2016 trial back into court to ask whether he received any outside communication about the case, based on the fact that the juror kept posting updates to his Facebook account during jury deliberations that lasted some three weeks.

The court determined that while "Juror A" disregarded the judge's order not to discuss the case on social media, his Facebook postings - which also included comments on the defense attorney, whom he did not like, and the prosecutor, whom he did, did not show any attempts by people outside the jury room to influence his thinking, that the occasional "thumb's up" or "wow" icon on posts about how long deliberations were taking, were not the sort of external communications that might have affected his thinking.

But because the length of the deliberations showed the prosecution might not have had the strongest of cases - it was based entirely on circumstantial evidence - and because there are multiple social-media channels, Judge Kenneth Salinger should have acceded to Morrison's request, following the jury verdict, but before sentencing, to question Juror A about any other potential social-media interactions during the trial or deliberations after learning about Juror A's Facebook posting.

The court reasoned that just because the juror did not receive any real communications on Facebook doesn't mean he didn't hear from people on other platforms.

And what about the other jurors?

We leave to the sound discretion of the trial judge whether to inquire of other jurors, based on the information obtained during inquiry of juror A.

PDF icon Complete ruling119.23 KB




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