Attorney seeks mistrial after murder trial juror’s social media post

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The defense attorney for a Monmouth County man accused of killing a childhood friend is seeking a mistrial after a juror posted about the case on social media.

The juror has since been dismissed from the case. Monmouth County Superior Court Judge Richard English questioned each of the remaining jurors about the Facebook post to see what they knew.

Some said that they knew Juror 13 posted something about the trial on Facebook, but others said that they knew nothing about it.

Defense attorney Carols Diaz-Cobo asked for a continuance to the trial Wednesday because he said he needs time to put together an argument for a mistrial.

“We believe there are issues that would cause a potential mistrial in this case and deals with my client’s Sixth Amendment right to a fair trial,” Diaz-Cobo said.

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But the prosecution argued that a mistrial is not needed. Assistant Monmouth County Prosecutor Meghan Doyle said that the Facebook post made by Juror 13 simply stated that she was on the jury for the case.

"Nothing about the facts of this case were discussed in that Facebook post. No one read the article. Not one juror knew anything about the contents of it, where it was posted, or anything like that,” Doyle said.

Liam McAtasney is accused of strangling his childhood friend Sarah Stern in December 2016 and throwing her body off the Route 35 Bridge into the Shark River below. Prosecutors say that he did this in order to steal thousands of dollars that Stern had recently inherited.

Jurors last week watched a secretly recorded video where McAtasney appeared to tell a friend about the slaying in great detail.

The prosecution called Diaz-Cobo’s attempt to get a mistrial a delay tactic in order to attempt to further the recording from the minds of the jury.

Judge English called a recess to allow both parties to research and consider a motion for mistrial. But he also warned the jury about the rules.

“I’m going to indicate again and warn you not to go on Facebook at all, to put up anything relevant to this case, to do any independent research on this case or review media articles,” he said.

Jurors were told to be back in court Thursday at 10:30 a.m. The prosecution has two more witnesses to call to the stand – both investigators with the Monmouth County Prosecutor’ Office. Then they are expected to rest their case.

The defense will present their case next, which should include three to five witnesses.

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