22-year-old Jonathan Hudson was removed from a trial after trying to friend the defendant, Courtney Downing, on Facebook. After trial recessed for the day on July 18, the young juror sent Downing the friend request and mentioned the case on the social network. The interaction came to light after the defendant told her lawyer about it, who in turn told the presiding judge. Hudson was dismissed from the jury the next morning, on July 19, according to court records.
Hudson then sent Downing an apology message, saying he thought she was someone else, but she didn't believe him, court records show. He wrote that he was being prosecuted for his actions, adding that he didn't use names or talk about what kind of case it was on his Facebook profile.
"I pretty much just said I was selected to be on a jury," his Facebook message to her read. "I'm pretty upset over this and I'm sure you guys are too. I guess you know what it feels like to be prosecuted too. Good luck with everything."
Steve Gordon, Hudson's attorney, says his client feels bad about his slip-up. "He seemed to be a very nice kid who just made a silly mistake," told the Star-Telegram. "It is a reflection of the times. Most everyone has smartphones now. They can hop on at almost anytime. And there's a lot of down time in jury duty, so what most people do is hop on their phone. But the rules are there for a reason."
The trial, over a 2008 car wreck, continued with 11 jurors. Hudson last week pleaded guilty to four counts of contempt and was ordered to serve two days of community service.
Texas recently added specific language to jury instructions that bans jurors from discussing the case on social networks. Hudson had received those instructions.
"I've never seen this before," prosecutor Chris Ponder said. "But I'm afraid this is a new reality as the technology is so ubiquitous that we'll have these types of things occur."