A juror’s unauthorized Internet research during the deliberations stage of a civil trial in St. Louis may result in a mistrial in a case where the plaintiff was awarded $7.5 million. St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Robert Patrick, who covered the trial and described the situation in a post-trial story, discusses this unusual scenario.
Patrick explains that the plaintiff, a former city police officer, filed the suit, alleging that she suffered retaliation after complaining about sexual harassment. At trial, the jury initially awarded her $300,000 in compensatory damages, then reached the consideration of punitive damages. Patrick relates that one juror used his phone to research the punitive damages to see who would receive them. When the research moment was revealed, defense lawyers sought to have the verdict set aside for juror misconduct.
Patrick says that it’s not clear whether the other jurors heard what the “Google juror” found in his search. It also appears that this juror suggested the $7.2 million amount for punitive damages that became the final award. The jurors were told not to do any outside research. The judge is concerned about this, Patrick says. “This is becoming second nature to people.” The problem is not confined to St. Louis. One suggestion is that there needs to be some more teeth in the admonitions given to the jury throughout the trial and certainly before they deliberate on the case.
The judge has not ruled on the matter. It is possible that the circuit court judge’s decision will be the subject of an appeal.
Robert Patrick is a reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Patrick specializes in coverage of the federal courts and federal law enforcement. The Legal Broadcast Network is a featured network of the Sequence Media Group.