Brown said it was an "odd" situation that the jury would hear closing arguments and then take three days off, but he said the delay wouldn't seem to benefit either side. And Brown and Heilberg agree that coverage largely hasn't included any non-courtroom bombshells that would influence jurors, even if they did pay attention to media accounts during the intermission.

Unlike the Huguely trial, where issues of outside influence haven't cropped up, the Dixon trial presented several such problems. Pollack, the juror on the Dixon trial, was among those dubbed the "Facebook Five" — for talking to each other on Facebook — who were summoned back to court after convicting Dixon of a misdemeanor embezzlement charge. The communication became an issue in a failed bid by Dixon's lawyers to declare a mistrial.

"After spending three weeks together, we did become friends on Facebook. We'd say 'Hello,' 'How are you,' 'Happy Thanksgiving,'" she said. "They tried to say we didn't follow the rules."

During the trial, Pollack said, the threat of being sequestered loomed large and she took extra precautions not to put herself in a position to discuss the case with people outside the courtroom. Only her boss knew that she was a juror in the case.

The four-day hiatus over Thanksgiving offered a "great mental break" from the rigors of the Dixon trial, she said.

"When you're in that room for hours and hours on end, it's grueling," she said. "That break is a great refresher for your mind."

Pollack, who said her mother is friends with Love's godmother, said the Huguely case is likely to be discussed widely on social media such as Facebook, particularly among young people, because of underlying issues including drinking and relationships.

Sweeney, in his essay in the Reynolds Courts & Media Law Journal, said judges shouldn't "overreact" if allegations of social media use surface in a trial, and courts generally shouldn't change procedures to respond to the new media landscape. Instead, he believes judges should take greater care to explain the process to jurors and why it is important that they consider only court testimony.

He recalled a juror on the Dixon trial, a 24-year-old man whom Sweeney described as polite and friendly during the proceedings, who afterward posted to Facebook: "[Expletive] the judges and the jury pimpin." Sweeney wrote that he pulled the man aside to ask him what he meant.

"Hey judge, it means nothing," he said. "That's just Facebook."

Baltimore Sun reporter Tricia Bishop contributed to this article.

justin.fenton@baltsun.com



Huguely trial timeline



Feb. 6: Trial opens with jury selection.

Feb. 8: Opening statements.

Feb. 15: Prosecution wraps up its case after calling about 50 witnesses; defense begins calling witnesses.

Feb. 16-17: Defense attorney falls ill, prompting suspension of trial.

Feb. 18: Jury hears closing arguments.

Feb. 20-21: Presidents Day holiday, unrelated grand jury proceedings make court unavailable.

Feb. 22: Jury expected to begin deliberations.


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