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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