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. The sad thing is that no fish were thrown overboard The "greenhorn" who had never fished before those 5 days was interrogated for over 4 hours by 5 officers until his statement was illicited, "I don't want to go to prison....." The truth is that these fish were measured frozen off shore and thawed on shore. The FWC (state) officer did not know fish shrink, so the only reason that these fish could be bigger was a swap. There is no difference between a 19 1/2 fish or 19 3/4 fish, short fish is short fish, the ticket was written. In addition the FWC officer testified at trial, he does not measure fish in accordance with federal law. There was a document prepared by the FWC expert that said yes, fish shrink and if these had been measured correctly they averaged over 20 inches (offshore frozen). This was a smoke and mirror prosecution.

  2. I love this, Dave! Many congrats to you! We've come a long way from studying for the bar together! :)

  3. This outbreak illustrates the absurdity of the extreme positions taken by today's liberalism, specifically individualism and the modern cult of endless personal "freedom." Ebola reminds us that at some point the person's own "freedom" to do this and that comes into contact with the needs of the common good and "freedom" must be curtailed. This is not rocket science, except, today there is nonstop propaganda elevating individual preferences over the common good, so some pundits have a hard time fathoming the obvious necessity of quarantine in some situations....or even NATIONAL BORDERS...propagandists have also amazingly used this as another chance to accuse Western nations of "racism" which is preposterous and offensive. So one the one hand the idolatry of individualism has to stop and on the other hand facts people don't like that intersect with race-- remain facts nonetheless. People who respond to facts over propaganda do better in the long run. We call it Truth. Sometimes it seems hard to find.

  4. It would be hard not to feel the Kramers' anguish. But Catholic Charities, by definition, performed due diligence and held to the statutory standard of care. No good can come from punishing them for doing their duty. Should Indiana wish to change its laws regarding adoption agreements and or putative fathers, the place for that is the legislature and can only apply to future cases. We do not apply new laws to past actions, as the Kramers seem intent on doing, to no helpful end.

  5. I am saddened to hear about the loss of Zeff Weiss. He was an outstanding member of the Indianapolis legal community. My thoughts are with his family.

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