Hawkins court clerk: Postings constitute criminal harassment of jurors

Jeff Bobo • Aug 28, 2013 at 9:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Hawkins County Clerk of Courts Sarah Davis said Tuesday she believes Internet postings that “outed” two jurors who served in a murder trial last week, listing the jurors’ names and places of employment, constitutes criminal harassment of a juror as stated in Tennessee Code Annotated.

A two-week first-degree murder trial, which had been moved from Greene County to Hawkins County due to the media attention it garnered, concluded Thursday in Rogersville with a guilty verdict.

The defendant, Ethan Self, 21, was found guilty of first-degree murder in the 2010 shooting death of his sleeping father, Greeneville police Sgt. Roger Self.

A Hawkins County jury sentenced Ethan Self to life in prison with a possibility for parole after 51 years.

Early Sunday morning, a person identifying himself or herself as “Es Supporter” began posting comments about the trial on the Rogersville online community bulletin board Topix.

Es Supporter started two separate threads, one of which states a juror’s first and last name, and occupation in the heading followed by the words, “... gave Ethan a child 51 years!!!

In the first post of that thread, Es Supporter states, “God have mercy on your soul for what you have done or the Devil will make sure you burn for eternity!”

The first reply is from a person identified as “Saddened” who states jurors should have to spend five minutes with Ethan Self. “I’m sure he’d haunt their dreams for the rest of their miserable lives. His father done unspeakable things to him, he had nowhere else to turn and these jurors didn’t protect him either. I hope and pray that every single one of you, burn in hell, just like his father is.”

Es Supporter then started a second thread, which is headed using the first name of another juror and her place of employment, and then stating “... gave a child Ethan 51 years.”

In the first posting of that thread, Es Supporter states, “God have mercy on your soul for what you have done because if he doesn’t you will burn for eternity!”

In reply to some subsequent entries, Es Supporter then posts that the juror, whom she names again, “did sit on the jury, she did hand down this sentence, and she will be judged. Not by me, but judgment will come for her as well.”

Es Supporter goes on to say she hopes customers at the juror’s place of employment “remind her every day of Ethan A. Self.”

Eventually other people add comments to this thread. Most of them are critical of the comments about the jurors and suggest that Es Supporter is violating the law by harassing the jurors.

There are also suggestions that Es Supporter’s postings may be tracked by law enforcement.

Es Supporter eventually states (misspellings included), “Shew thank goodness for me there’s this little thing called The Fredom of Information Act and disposable mobile devices.”

Davis told the Times-News on Tuesday, however, she doesn’t believe the Freedom of Information Act, nor the First Amendment of the Constitution — which is probably what Es Supporter was actually referring to — are a shield for this type of juror harassment.

Tennessee Code Annotated 39-16-5 states, “A person commits an offense who communicates with a former juror with the intent of intimidating, harassing, or coercing such juror for anything such former juror did in an official capacity as a juror.” The crime is a Class a misdemeanor.

Davis said she has forwarded printouts and links of the Topix postings to Judge Kerry Blackwood, who presided over the trial, and Third Judicial District Attorney General Berkeley Bell.

“I hope they do pursue an investigation because this is harassment, and jurors who give up their time in service to the community for $15 per day don’t deserve this kind of abuse,” Davis said.

Davis is no stranger to the harm that can be done by people who post on Topix. Last year she filed a lawsuit against an anonymous Topix contributor called “Luvs2walk,” who made libelous false accusations about her on Topix.

Although Topix cooperated with a subpoena filed by Davis’ attorney William Phillips seeking Luvs2walk’s IP address, Phillips said Charter Communications has not yet complied with an subpoena seeking identification of the IP address owner.

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