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No juror misconduct hearing over Twitter claim

A tweet about the difference between “presume” and “assume” did not require an Alexandria U.S. District Court to hold a hearing on possible juror misconduct, the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said in an opinion released earlier today.

Richard Adolphus Forde, who operated an online business called “Tutornet.com,” was convicted of bankruptcy fraud for a scheme involving phony financing for a sham sale of his multi-million dollar home.

His appeal raised several challenges to his convictions, including a claim that Alexandria U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga needed to investigate a Twitter posting Forde said may have come to the attention of jurors.

In a post-trial motion, Forde told the court that during trial, a friend of the husband of the jury foreperson posted on Twitter an explanation of the difference between “assume” and “presume.” Forde contended it was possible the jury foreperson had talked to her husband about the case, he in turn talked to his friend, the friend posted the Twitter statement and the foreperson saw the Twitter posting.

He asked the trial court to hold a hearing to investigate potential misconduct. The judge said no, and the 4th Circuit upheld the judge’s call in an unpublished opinion in U.S. v. Forde.

It’s true a trial judge has to investigate “colorable claims of juror misconduct,” the appellate panel said.

But Forde’s “string of possibilities about the origin of the Twitter posting … is nothing but speculation” and “falls far short of establishing reasonable grounds for investigation,” the panel said in its per curiam opinion.
By Deborah Elkins

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