A juror in a murder case left an anonymous comment on the Topeka Capital-Journal’s site, and now a judge has ordered the paper to release the identification of the commenter. The paper has agreed to release the information.
District Judge Steven Ebberts on Friday denied the newspaper’s request to quash the district attorney’s subpoena for the information. As a result, CJOnline will have to release the poster’s name, address and Internet Protocol address to the district attorney.
At issue is a CJOnline commenter posting under the pseudonym of “BePrepared.” According to court documents, BePrepared accessed a news story posted on July 19 while the person and other jurors were deliberating the guilt or innocence of Anceo D. Stovall on July 21.
The lawyer for Anceo D. Stovall, who was convicted of aggravated robbery, but acquitted of nine other charges, including murder, said the comment was juror misconduct. Shawnee County District Attorney Chad Taylor said he wants to retry Stovall, but the lawyer, Jonathan Phelps, is arguing the comment would prohibit his client from receiving a fair trial.
In his ruling, Ebberts agreed with the district attorney that poster’s identity was relevant to an investigation of criminal misconduct during the trial. The office has claimed that without the information “a miscarriage of justice” would result, Ebberts wrote.
He also agreed that the district attorney’s office couldn’t reasonably obtain the poster’s identity through any means other than CJOnline. The juror suspected of writing as BePrepared asserted his Fifth Amendment rights of protection against self-incrimination in an earlier court proceeding.