1. News

Judge rescinds order to seize juror's home computers in Buju Banton case

Published Jan. 9, 2013

TAMPA — A federal judge who took the unusual step of ordering the seizure of a juror's home computers in the drug case involving reggae star Buju Banton rescinded his order Tuesday.

U.S. District Court Judge James Moody had issued an order Friday that a U.S. marshal visit the home of juror Terri Wright of Tampa to seize her computers after allegations she conducted research on Banton's case during his 2011 trial.

But the judge reconsidered after a prosecutor raised privacy and due process concerns. Moody instead instructed Wright to bring the hard drive of any computer she owns or the computer itself to a court hearing on Feb. 19.

Moody had instructed a marshal to seize the computers at the request of the defense during a telephone hearing with lawyers in the case last week. Wright had not been given notice of that hearing and so was unable to contest the seizure.

But on Tuesday, Moody said Wright has the right to have an attorney present at next month's hearing. Moody said he would consider appointing counsel if Wright cannot afford to hire a lawyer.

Banton's attorneys are seeking a new trial for Banton, 39, who is serving a 10-year prison sentence on drug charges after his conviction in 2011. His lawyers note that Wright is quoted in an October Miami New Times story saying she conducted Internet research on Banton's case during his trial.

That would violate a judge's instructions against doing so and could be grounds for throwing out Banton's conviction. At a hearing last month, Wright said she did the research after the trial ended, not before.

A defense expert was to have examined the computers to determine if Wright is telling the truth.

An order for the seizure of a juror's property is rarely seen in either federal or state court. And in a motion on Monday, federal prosecutor James Preston questioned whether Moody's order violated Wright's privacy and constitutionally guaranteed due process protections.

Preston said the Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizures.

Police, he noted, normally need a court-authorized warrant "supported by probable cause" to seize and search property in a criminal investigation.

And the judge, the prosecutor said, provided no directions on how to go about the seizure.

According to the motion, "The order theoretically would permit the marshal to enter the juror's home, business or vehicle and take any computer device (desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone) found therein. The order allows for these devices to be held indefinitely, without any regard for the disruption the loss of personal computers might have on Ms. Wright's affairs."

These actions, the motion said, "invite an invasion of privacy."

Wright, who was foreman of the Banton jury, could not be reached for comment. Moody's office said the judge cannot comment on a pending case. His brief ruling Tuesday did not offer the reasoning for his reversal.

Randall Marshall, legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said he has never seen a similar judge's order to seize a juror's property.

"I think the prosecutor has raised very serious privacy concerns with the manner in which this seizure will be done," said Marshall, who is not affiliated with the case.


  1. Joshua Michael Nichols, 21, was arrested by Pasco County Sheriff's deputies on Saturday in connection to the early morning shooting death of an unidentified man during an argument outside a Spring Hill home. [Pasco County Sheriff's Office] ANASTASIA DAWSON  |  Pasco County Sheriff's Office
    One person is in custody. The Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is investigating.
  2. Yesterday• Pasco
    Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, received his third “Paul Harris Award.” the highest recognition from the Rotary Club, on Aug. 15. The pin was presented to Dr. Musunuru, a nationally-recognized cardiologist, by Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins in recognition of his humanitarian and philanthropic services to the people of Pasco County and the State of Florida for nearly 40 years. Pictured: Dr. Rao Musunuru, MD, (left) and Rotary 6950 District Governor Allen Collins. Jemith Rosa/Hudson Rotary Club
    News and notes about your neighbors
  3. A Lancaster County Sheriff's deputy walks around the Old Skool Sports Bar and Grill, the scene of a shooting early in the morning, north of Lancaster, S.C. on Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  Lancaster County Sherriff's Office said in a statement that the agency was investigating a fatal shooting that also injured several people.  (Jessica Holdman/The Post And Courier via AP) JESSICA HOLDMAN  |  AP
    Two adult males were shot and killed.
  4. Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, right, listens to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, left, during the Youth Climate Summit at United Nations headquarters, Saturday, Sept. 21, 2019.  (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) EDUARDO MUNOZ ALVAREZ  |  AP
    Swedish 16-year-old activist Greta Thunberg started the climate strike movement with her lone protest in front of her country’s parliament.
  5. Stay with for the latest news and updates. Times
    She was not in a crosswalk when she was hit, troopers say.
  6. Vice President Mike Pence reacts during an immigration and naturalization ceremony in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building on the White House grounds, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON  |  AP
    Katie Waldman, a former University of Florida student senator, was accused of helping discard independent student newspapers with a front-page endorsement of a rival party’s candidate. | Analysis
  7. Check for the latest breaking news and updates. JAMAL THALJI  |  Tampa Bay Times
    John Clark used a shotgun to kill his mother and another man. Then he returned to the crime scene with a shotgun, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.
  8. Sandra Gero, a regional search associate at Ray and Associates, hosts a meeting at the Middleton High School auditorium and gathers public comments on what people are looking for for the next Hillsborough County School Superintendent on Thursday, Sept. 19, 2019 in Tampa. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    Using public meetings and a survey, they’re painting a picture of the ideal school leader.
  9. The main exhibit center at the Museum of Science & Industry in Tampa once stirred the imagination with dinosaurs and stars. Now, it's empty, but on the verge of rebirth as a movie studio.
    The County Commission has set aside $2 million for the project as the Film Commission studies the demand for it.
  10. President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison in the East Room of the White House, Friday, Sept. 20, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) PATRICK SEMANSKY  |  AP
    Hunter Biden worked for a Ukrainian gas company.