An anonymous Reddit post in which the poster claimed to be a juror for the Darrell Brooks trial was a point of conversation before the jury convened, but it likely won’t impact the case.
Brooks, who represented himself after he was accused of driving through a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin, nearly a year ago, was found guilty of all the charges against him, including six counts of first-degree intentional homicide.
Not discussing the case is one of the rules set for jurors, as outlined in the Wisconsin Jury Handbook.
“During the trial, you should not talk about the case to anyone, including other jurors,” the rule states. “Outside discussions could cause you to form conclusions before all the evidence has been presented.”
It also said jurors should not read, view or listen to media accounts about the trial, as they may present an “unbalanced view” of the case.
Judge Jennifer Dorow addressed the Reddit post, which was shared on the now-banned forum “Justice4Darrell,” in court and said the matter had been passed on to the Waukesha County Sheriff’s Department.
Brooks said he was “extremely concerned” about the post and requested a mistrial or a “discharge of the jury,” but his request was denied.
“This is alarming, to say the least,” Brooks said. “It’s almost like this could be a snowball type of thing. It could start with something that’s this small, and then it could snowball into something totally different.”
Assistant District Attorney Zach Wittchow said the post had been edited Tuesday evening, and the Reddit user said it was shared as a prank. However, the matter remains under investigation.
Dorow said there was no “credible” information that suggests that the person responsible for publishing the Reddit post was, in fact, a member of the jury.
Lieutenant Nicholas Wenzel told Newsweek he was unable to share much information as it is an open investigation and could not determine how long the investigation could take.
Keith Findley, a professor at the University of Wisconsin Law School told Newsweek that it is unlikely the post will have any impact on the case.
Even if the poster was determined to have been a member of the jury, Findley said it means that person acted in violation of the judge’s instructions, but it does not mean it invalidates the jury’s verdict.
“What happens in the jury room is really sealed off from judicial inquiry from the rest of the legal system,” he said. “It’s deliberately designed to be a black box because we don’t want people second-guessing the decision-making process the jurors went through.”
Findley explained that any evidence of a juror’s thought process in making their decision cannot be considered by the court when reviewing the validity of the verdict.
There is an exception to that.
Findley said a jury’s verdict may be overturned if there is evidence that shows that extraneous prejudicial information was brought to the jury’s attention, or it shows some outside influence was brought to bear upon a juror.
He added that while the poster talked about acquiring some information from the subreddit, it was difficult for him to see how the guilty verdict can be overturned.
“That information would not be information that would pressure the juror or improperly influence the juror to convict, but would actually provide a basis for acquitting, and that’s not what the jury did here,” Findley said.
While there is an ongoing investigation into the matter, Findley also said he does not believe it will delay future court procedures related to the case.
Newsweek reached out to the Waukesha County District Attorney’s Office for further comment.