The first known New Jersey case of a juror punished for doing his own internet research.
On March 12, 2012, Judge Peter Doyne has imposed a $500 criminal contempt sanction on Daniel Kaminsky, a jury foreman, whose actions led to a mistrial. Kaminsky did independent research during the jury-deliberation stage and learned about the sentence for the crime, which he considered unjust. This information might have motivated his “not guilty” vote, leaving the jury hung. The court held Kaminsky in contempt of court for knowingly disobeying the court order to refrain from conducting independent research of the issues involved in a criminal trial in which Kaminsky participated as a juror.
The three elements of contempt are satisfied in this case:
1) Kaminsky conducted independent research;
2) such act was contemptuous;
3) such act was performed willfully and contumaciously, with complete disregard of the court’s authority and instructions.
The court stated that when a juror conducts independent research, he bypasses the rules of evidence and allows the information to evade the judge’s scrutiny, thereby running the risk he is considering improper information and, consequently, reducing the chances of a just verdict.
Though Judge Doyne found Kaminsky to be a “sincere, conscientious person” who mistakenly “sought to fulfill his duty as jury foreman and lead the jury to a proper verdict,” his conduct could not be allowed because of the need to ensure obedience to the court, maintain its dignity and promote fairness, justice and due process.
Kaminsky could have been sent to jail for up to a year or fined as much as $1,000, but because the court found Kaminsky’s intentions understandable, though misguided, his penalty was $500.
Please visit the site of New Jersey Criminal lawyer, Jeffrey Hark for more information on criminal matters in NJ and more cases like this.