Digital Forensics Dispatch

Digital Forensics Blog
by Sensei Enterprises, Inc.

Judge Considers Motion to Review Juror’s Cell Phone in Corruption Trial

September 13, 2022

In a recent article for WCPO Cincinnati, Paula Christian relayed the factors leading to a motion for forensic review of a juror’s cell phone and the apparent decision by the Judge in the case against Cincinnati City Councilman P.G. Sittenfeld.

Sittenfeld had been on trial after accepting around $40,000 in campaign donations from FBI agents posing as land developers seeking assistance and influence on a project downtown. After a three week trial, Sittenfeld was convicted on charges relating to bribery and attempted extortion.

However, just before the verdicts were passed down, court staff discovered one of the jurors, now infamously known as “Juror X”, had been making posts to Facebook about the trial. Sittenfeld’s counsel initially requested a mistrial but the judge denied that motion. His attorneys then requested a forensic examination of Juror X’s cellphone. Attorneys were allowed to question Juror X about the messages and any external influence in a hearing in the Judge’s chambers.

Defense counsel argued that because Juror X had not admitted to making the posts when the judge had questioned the jury about reading news articles or talking to others about the case throughout the trial, that this omission weighed in favor of the examination. The prosecutor was quoted in a motion saying “Juror X also never revealed any evidence, never commented on the evidence, or expressed her opinion about the evidence through her social media posts. Rather, Juror X mostly posted about her schedule, the fact of her jury service, and compensation.” Because of this, the prosecutor felt the exam was unnecessary stating that “This is a gross overreach motivated by the defense’s dissatisfaction with the jury verdict,”.

The decision regarding the forensic exam of Juror X’s cell phone was filed under seal; however, in her article Christian notes the motion, which was listed on PACER, has since been terminated.     

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