Jurist removed because she is Facebook friend with defendant
Sheila A. Mathews Staff Writer
The Upson County District Attorney’s Office is investigating potential juror wrongdoing following the burglary trial of Irvin Dexter Smith.
According to Senior Assistant District Attorney Ben Coker, prosecutors learned the female juror was associated with the defendant through Facebook only after the jury sent a note to Superior Court Judge Fletcher Sams stating they were deadlocked.
“We thought we had an open-and-shut case, and it wouldn’t take long to reach a verdict, but after about an hour and a half, the jury sent a note out saying they were deadlocked ten to two,” Coker said. “The judge gave them an Allen Charge – just a reminder to do their duty. During that time, one of the investigators from the Thomaston Police Department, Monica Snipes, was on her smart phone and had gone on the defendant’s Facebook page and discovered one of the jurors was the defendant’s Facebook friend.”
Upon this discovery, a hearing was held before Sams, during which the juror claimed to be unaware of the affiliation.
“She indicated that she didn’t know she was his friend. She said she didn’t know why she would be his friend on Facebook,” Coker said. “We then pulled up her Facebook page – and verified it was her page – and she acknowledged that they were friends.”
Sams ruled that she be removed from the jury, and seated the alternate on the panel, which reconvened deliberations.
“Within ten minutes, they had a verdict. He was found guilty and sentenced to 35 years with 25 to serve,” Coker said, adding that Smith was also ordered to pay a $5,000 fine and upon release from prison, was banished from the Griffin Judicial Circuit, which includes Upson, Pike, Spalding and Fayette counties.
Smith’s burglary charged stemmed from an incident at Terry Auto Sales in which a vehicle was stolen.
“He broke into the business, stole a set of keys to a Chevrolet Silverado on the lot and then took the truck,” Coker said.
Officer Mark Poore, of the Thomaston PD spotted Smith driving the vehicle and attempted to execute a traffic stop. Smith pulled over and then fled on foot. He was apprehended a brief time later.
“He (Smith) tried to say he’d been in Ingles, but the doors were locked; the store was open at that time,” Coker said. “They (officers) recognized him because he was wearing the same clothes he’d had on earlier and because they’d dealt with him before.”
Coker said the District Attorney’s Office is conducting an investigation to determine whether a charge of false swearing will be brought against the female juror.
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