Thursday 23 November 2017

Retrial collapses after juror looks up case online

Sandra Higgins at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photo: Collins Courts
Sandra Higgins at the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court. Photo: Collins Courts

Sarah Jane Murphy

The retrial of a child-minder charged with causing serious harm to a 10-month-old baby has collapsed because a juror researched the case on the internet.

Minutes after the jury had retired to consider its verdict, a juror requested to speak to Judge Martin Nolan about "a matter of concern".

The juror said that earlier yesterday, during initial discussions about evidence in the case, the jury foreman disclosed to her that she had Googled background information regarding one of the witnesses in the case.

"I now feel that I am personally tainted, and that I can't go in there and deliberate," she said.

After confirming with the jury foreman that she had Googled the witness, Judge Nolan discharged the jury.

Sandra Higgins (36), of The Beeches, Drumgola Wood, Cavan town, Co Cavan, had pleaded not guilty at Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to intentionally or recklessly causing serious harm to the baby at her home on March 28, 2012.

It is the State's case that on that day the baby was subjected to an assault sometime between 1.30pm and 4.30pm, when the defendant presented the child for treatment at Cavan General Hospital suffering from seizures, a detached retina, haemorrhaging in the eye and a traumatic brain injury.

This was a retrial after a jury in the first trial failed to reach a verdict. The Director of Public Prosecutions will now consider whether to go for a third trial.

Before discharging the jury, Judge Nolan told the jury foreman he indicated that jurors should not look up the case on the internet.

"You disobeyed my instruction," he said. The judge thanked the jury for its time.

He also praised the juror who brought the matter to his attention, saying it took courage.

Ms Higgins was remanded on continuing bail. The case will be dealt with on May 11.

Irish Independent

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