Juror Facebook posts could impact $2 million jury verdict


MILWAUKEE (AP) — A juror’s Facebook posts during a federal civil rights trial could jeopardize a $2 million verdict awarded to a man who said he was illegally strip-searched by a Milwaukee police officer.

Jurors last month found that former officer Michael Vagnini had violated Willie Newman’s civil rights during a 2010 arrest.

The city’s lawyers have asked U.S. District Judge J.P. Stadtmueller to question jurors under oath after the city says it found “Juror No. 1” had posted about the trial on Facebook, and also had shared a post by an anti-police activist, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (http://bit.ly/2hEtfpw ) reported.

The city’s lawyers also said the juror agreed with comments on Facebook and said he or she would defend “those (who need) help expressing themselves.” The city has asked that a printout of the juror’s Facebook activity be filed under seal to protect the juror’s identity.

If Stadtmueller determines that outside information entered the deliberations, he could throw out the verdict.

Jurors are not allowed to discuss a case they are hearing with anyone, which includes other jurors until deliberations begin. They are also not to independently research any aspects or questions related to the case. Jurors are to rely solely on the evidence presented during the trial.

Vagnini was one of four officers convicted of crimes in illegal strip and cavity searches from 2008 to 2012. The officers were forced to resign.

Vagini pleaded no contest to four felonies and four misdemeanors, and he was sentence to 26 months in prison. The other officers were convicted of misdemeanors.

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Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com