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When you serve on a jury, the judge makes it clear: Don’t talk to anyone about the case. But one juror may have broken that rule in a big way — by writing an e-mail that went out to 900 people. “Just say he’s guilty and let’s get on with our lives!” the message said. Now, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court is considering whether the comments require a new trial. The legal battle arises out of the case against Timothy Guisti, who was found guilty in 1999 of attacking a woman in Quincy, Massachusetts, who had tried to end their relationship. Guisti is in prison for rape and other offenses. During his trial, defense lawyers say, one of the jurors wrote a message to an e-mail discussion list for people interested in gymnastics, complaining that she was “stuck” in jury duty on a rape and assault case and “working more hours and getting less pay because of it!” The e-mail concluded with the wish that the man would be convicted so that the jurors could get on with their lives. Defense attorneys believe the e-mail may have gone out to 900 people. The next day, the juror, who was not identified in court papers, wrote another e-mail, saying, “Please understand I was joking and do not take my quote … seriously.” But one of those who had gotten the e-mail happened to be a public defender in New York, who wrote an e-mail back to the juror, telling her to reveal the e-mails to the judge. The lawyer also contacted public defenders in Massachusetts, who discovered the case was one of their own. Prosecutors say that the juror violated the judge’s instructions but that Guisti got a fair trial. They say a verdict should not be overturned unless it has been shown that a juror was subject to some “extraneous influence.” But public defender Catherine Byrne, who will represent Guisti in a hearing next week before the high court, says she believes the juror probably got responses from other people to her e-mail. She also says that the e-mail suggests that, only a few days into the case, the juror had already made up her mind about the defendant. Byrne says she has not come across any similar cases of jurors chatting over the Internet. “These kinds of technological things are problems the law needs to deal with in some way,” she says. “It is something we’ve got to deal with in order to protect the constitutional rights of all of us.” Copyright 2001 Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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