Twitter in the courtroom

March 23, 2009
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Can Twitter cause a mistrial or possibly taint a trial? Yes it can, if you’ve read any recent news stories about jurors using the social networking tool to “tweet” about their experience on the jury.

Some guy in Arkansas sent messages on his Twitter account about jury selection and random messages while the case was at trial. The defendant in the lawsuit filed a motion for a new trial claiming the juror used his Twitter account to post information during, before, and after the trial that showed he was biased.

In a Philadelphia federal corruption trial, a judge allowed a juror to stay on after the defendant in a trial claimed the juror was putting trial posts on his Facebook and Twitter accounts. One post apparently alluded to a big announcement coming Monday, possibly meaning a verdict. The defense counsel claimed in their motion to remove the juror that he violated the court’s admonitions by posting the status of deliberations online.

Technology, while great at keeping us connected to the outside world, poses a big threat to trials. The ability to access the Internet on your cell phone is much more prevalent than it was just a few years ago, and I’m not sure how judges handle instructing jurors on their use of cell phones during trial. Of course, jurors aren’t supposed to talk about what’s happening or look for information outside of court on which to base their decision. But with your iPhone or Blackberry and a few simple clicks, a juror can Google the defendant’s name or post a note to their Facebook or Twitter.

Because this seems to be happening more due to the popularity of these social networking tools, are you in the legal community worried about how this may affect a trial you are involved in or do Indiana judges and courts take more precautions to prevent this from happening here? Any examples of this happening in our state?
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  1. As one of the many consumers affected by this breach, I found my bank data had been lifted and used to buy over $200 of various merchandise in New York. I did a pretty good job of tracing the purchases to stores around a college campus just from the info on my bank statement. Hm. Mr. Hill, I would like my $200 back! It doesn't belong to the state, in my opinion. Give it back to the consumers affected. I had to freeze my credit and take out data protection, order a new debit card and wait until it arrived. I deserve something for my trouble!

  2. Don't we have bigger issues to concern ourselves with?

  3. Anyone who takes the time to study disciplinary and bar admission cases in Indiana ... much of which is, as a matter of course and by intent, off the record, would have a very difficult time drawing lines that did not take into account things which are not supposed to matter, such as affiliations, associations, associates and the like. Justice Hoosier style is a far departure than what issues in most other parts of North America. (More like Central America, in fact.) See, e.g., http://www.theindianalawyer.com/indiana-attorney-illegally-practicing-in-florida-suspended-for-18-months/PARAMS/article/42200 When while the Indiana court system end the cruel practice of killing prophets of due process and those advocating for blind justice?

  4. Wouldn't this call for an investigation of Government corruption? Chief Justice Loretta Rush, wrote that the case warranted the high court’s review because the method the Indiana Court of Appeals used to reach its decision was “a significant departure from the law.” Specifically, David wrote that the appellate panel ruled after reweighing of the evidence, which is NOT permissible at the appellate level. **But yet, they look the other way while an innocent child was taken by a loving mother who did nothing wrong"

  5. Different rules for different folks....

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