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Juror 'Friends' Defendant on Facebook -- Gets Community Service

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Juror 'Friends' Defendant on Facebook -- Gets Community Service

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A juror who reached out on Facebook to "friend" a defendant found himself facing a judge for contempt of court.

Jonathan Hudson, 22, was part of a jury in a civil trial in Fort Worth, Texas involving a car crash on July 18 when he tried to contact the defendant, Courtney Downing, on Facebook, according to the Star-Telegram. Downing's lawyer notified the judge and Hudson was removed from the case. Last week, Hudson pleaded guilty to four counts of contempt of court and was sentenced to two days of community service.

Texas recently changed its jury instructions to include banning discussion of the case on social media. Officials said Hudson was told of the new instructions.

Officials in the Tarrant County district attorney's office said this is the first instance they are aware of in which a juror used social media to contact a person involved in an ongoing case.

"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."

It's occurred before -- and likely will again -- as Facebook and Twitter users constantly post updates, even in jury boxes. Although states have enacted laws against jurors discussing cases on social media, perhaps courts will have confiscate cellphones after jury instructions to emphasize the importance of not discussing the case online.

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