'LMAO': How a Facebook Comment Nearly Jeopardized Sarah Stern Murder Trial
A New Jersey juror on a high-profile murder trial was dismissed after an inappropriate Facebook post.
"Sitting on the jury LMAO [laughing my ass off]," the post read.
It sparked mayhem for the trial of suspect Liam McAtasney, whose lawyer insisted a mistrial be declared in the wake of the comment. The judge denied that request Thursday.
McAtasney is accused of killing his 19-year-old friend, Sarah Stern, in December 2016 and then seeking the help of his roommate, Preston Taylor, to dispose of her body by throwing it over a bridge, according to prosecutors. A key witness in the case is Taylor, who is testifying against his former roommate after taking a plea deal in the case. Stern was also Taylor's one-time prom date.
The motive? He allegedly wanted cash Stern had found in her family's storage unit, according to the Asbury Park Press. Prosecutors say McAtasney strangled Stern and took her money, which was apparently much less than what he thought.
Stern's remains have never been found. McAtasney insists he is not guilty.
The juror in question, however, insisted she never posted the comment that got her removed from the jury, telling NJ Advance Media that her younger sister was to blame. The woman, who asked only to be identified as a 21-year-old resident of Middletown, told the outlet she deleted the comment the second she saw it.
She added that she's relieved to be off the trial, saying it was giving her bad dreams.
“I started having really vivid nightmares about it and I couldn’t take it anymore," the woman said. "It was too much.”
The comment was posted as jurors watched video appearing to show McAtasney confess to killing Stern, describing the events in chilling detail.
"I pretty much hung her, like, I just, I picked her up and I had her like dangling off the ground," McAtasney was recorded saying. "She was just laying there having a seizure or something. I got a shirt and I just shoved it down her throat so she wouldn't throw up and held my finger over her nose."
He added: "It took me a half-hour to kill her."
McAtasney maintains he made up the story to help with a friend's horror film plot, according to his attorney.
The juror's dismissal was only revealed Wednesday.
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