Tweeting Juror Leads To Retrial For Guy Convicted Of Murder

from the but-why? dept

We've discussed in the past how tweeting jurors represent a new sort of challenge for courts, who haven't quite figured out what to make of the practice. However, the Arkansas Supreme Court recently overturned a murder conviction and ordered a new trial, because one of the jurors was tweeting occasionally during the case. As in the past, I tend to think this is a pretty big overreaction. From the tweets quoted, it does not appear he actually discussed any specifics of the case at hand, but rather some rather general thoughts:
Mr Franco tweeted: "Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken... We each define the great line."

Other tweets sent included: "The coffee here sucks" and "Court. Day 5. here we go again".
I fail to see how those should lead to the end result being suspect in any way. It doesn't appear he discussed the case at all, but merely shared some of his general thoughts. It appears the court would prefer that he pretend he not even have those thoughts at all. How does that possibly make sense? Denying someone from mentioning what they're thinking doesn't stop them from thinking what they're thinking.


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  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 7:48pm

    According to one of the state Supreme Court judges, "Even if such discussions were one-sided, it is in no way appropriate for a juror to state musings, thoughts or other information about a case in such a public fashion."

    Perhaps. But that in itself doesn't justify overturning a conviction. It would also not be "appropriate" for the juror to come to court wearing nothing but boxers, but that wouldn't trigger a mistrial.

    The real problem is when he potentially looks at the RESPONSES to the tweets. In such a high-profile case, if you let the world know that you're a juror, it's likely that friends or even strangers might want to post their thoughts at you.

     

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    AdamBv1 (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 7:49pm

    Denying someone from mentioning what they're thinking doesn't stop them from thinking what they're thinking.


    But it should! There should be legislation that enforces this!

     

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    average_joe (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 8:24pm

    I fail to see how those should lead to the end result being suspect in any way. It doesn't appear he discussed the case at all, but merely shared some of his general thoughts. It appears the court would prefer that he pretend he not even have those thoughts at all. How does that possibly make sense? Denying someone from mentioning what they're thinking doesn't stop them from thinking what they're thinking.

    Rather than guess about what the court was thinking and rebut hypothetical arguments, you could actually read the opinion and find out for real (you know, basic journalism stuff): http://www.arktimes.com/images/blogimages/2011/12/08/1323359339-twittercaswe.pdf Imagine how powerful your rebuttal of the court's reasoning would be if you addressed the court's actual reasoning in your analysis. Without that, it's just tinfoil hat psychobabble.

     

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  4.  
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    abc gum, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 8:26pm

    Well then - I guess it would not be ok to tweet about the prosecutor saying hesucksalot.

     

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    Violated (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 8:36pm

    Yes this court is clearly wrong for ordering a retail when this person tweeted nothing about this case. Well that is unless you consider "court coffee" a major aspect of the trial.

    I think this person in the jury actually did well to not reveal facts about the trial. Modern technology is part of our lives and if they are unhappy with this event then good luck finding people who do not use the Internet or Cell Phone.

    It would be much better if the court provided a booklet about what you can and cannot do. Then if they want to make public statements they then only need to declare when and where.

     

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  6.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 8:48pm

    Re:

    Read it.

    The Twitter deal still seems really thin to me. I'm not sure how a juror posting vague, poetry-like expressions about the seriousness of their duties or opinions about the court's coffee translates into the denial of a fair trial to the victim. They don't even attempt to show any prejudicial content in the messages.

    That said, the juror sleeping seems like the bigger deal of the two.

     

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  7.  
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    Chris Rhodes (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 8:51pm

    Re:

    Reading the opinion makes it clear that the court was very specific about what you could and could not do. The judge even questioned the juror about his tweets after the first time it happened, and the guy kept doing it anyway.

    Not sure is he was ballsy, or just stupid.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 9:00pm

    Re: Re:

    I think the main point was, since the juror was instructed to not tweet, and he tweeted anyway, it showed that he was not willing to follow the court's instructions.

    Which is still stupid. If you read the dialouge between the juror and the judge, I think you can see where he would think that his posting were OK because they did not discuss specifics. And even if the juror knew he was wrong, it still shouldn't result in overturning. As the court states, "a defendant is entitled to a fair trial, not a perfect trial."

    And I agree, the sleeping juror was the real problem. Not the guy posting vauge thoughts and his impression of the coffee. The sleeping guy missed some testimony and the defense objected at the time - that juror should have been removed, and I agree with the court that the failure to remove him is grounds for a new trial.

     

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    Trails (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 9:04pm

    Re: Re:

    I would say that that(failure to follow a presiding judge's direction), in and of itself i grounds for concern.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 9:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Grounds for concern, maybe. And if the judge wanted to remove him at the time I wouldn't fault him. But such things should be within the discretion of the court, and the court chose to leave him in. I don't think leaving him in was such an abuse of discretion that the entire trial is invalid.

     

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    Violated (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 9:22pm

    I read it and see what happened. Yes the judge made clear not to tweet but he did anyway. Since he did not follow the judge's instruction then it was believed he would not follow the judge's other instructions. It was stated that the contents of the tweets were not a problem.

    There was also the issue with the juror who preferred sleeping. Well not everyone can withstand technical discussions it seems.

    This murder case is a pretty nasty one. Robbery aimed. So he demanded a cell phone from his 'friends' which they did not have, demanded money also no, wanted the victim's clothes and then he shot him dead just because.

    Cheap life indeed when if not for $10 or some ancient cell phone this victim could still be alive. You can only wonder the life of this murderer to understand how he saw such actions as acceptable.

    I would put it down to American gun culture. Bang, bang, shoot them dead... just like on TV.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 13th, 2011 @ 9:59pm

    Re:

    I would put it down to American gun culture. Bang, bang, shoot them dead... just like on TV.

    ...Jack Thompson? Is that you?

     

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  13.  
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    Violated (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 10:28pm

    I am not Jack Thompon, neither the Actor nor Activist.

    Well you sure have a crazy culture. You jail more people than the rest of the World combined.

    Then exactly how does it feel when someone can pull a gun on you at any time? Forget to bring your wallet to a robbery and dead you are. Or how about attending a shooting spree at your local mall? Parents day at your kids school can soon become a massacre.

    I should give up already when American love their guns. You need them to save you from the bad guys. Oddly enough most cases highlight the bad guys shoot first.

    So you murder your family, friends and neighbours at a rate greater than the deaths from all American Wars combined. Then death from terrorism is only a small smudge next to your annual gun deaths.

    An odd place with some large racial tensions. Well here is but one more example. The year is almost over so that is a few thousand more gun deaths added to your list.

    Then here I am being able to visit my local mall knowing a gun shooting is near on impossible. We in the UK are quite lacking in guns and the gun culture.

     

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  14.  
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    Jay (profile), Dec 13th, 2011 @ 11:13pm

    Re:

    ... Stop. You are spreading FUD in regards to gun culture and a supposed American life.

    You jail more people than the rest of the World combined.

    Which is the result of a drug War that has failed along with a gun policy that is inconsistent depending on the state you are in.

    So you murder your family, friends and neighbours at a rate greater than the deaths from all American Wars combined. Then death from terrorism is only a small smudge next to your annual gun deaths.

    Bullshit. Yes, there is a 1 in 4 billion chance of a terrorist attack, but there is no correlation between terrorism and parricide.

    We in the UK are quite lacking in guns and the gun culture.

    No, you don't have a gun culture, but your ethnocentricity is unappreciated and biased. It centers around blaming some places having responsible gun laws such as Arizona (open carry) or Kansas with being responsible for criminals getting guns. I don't know where you get your information, but I found that at least 21,000+ people have been killed by guns in the UK. There are a variety of reasons that the US has a high homicide rate, and it's not necessarily because of guns being freely distributed. They are not. You should go to educate yourself on the mitigating factors of the United States before ignorantly complaining about the country in a rant that serves no purpose to assist your argument.

    Here are valid arguments for high homicide rates: US War on Drugs

    The Second Amendment and how it affects states in employing gun control

    Actual research into the effectiveness of a federal ban.

    These will do much better for your argument than bigoted statements.

     

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  15.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 1:53am

    Re: Double Standard

    There is a double standard operating. Judges get to sit on cases and conduct their lives normally and nobody thinks anything of it. Meanwhile, there is a whole bunch of special rules, made up by judges, restricting the freedom of jurors. The cause is the hostility by judges towards juries. Judges are well aware that juries were introduced as a rebuke to judges who were failing to deliver justice. Judges deliver conformity with the law, no matter how unjust the law may be. Or, they take orders from their political masters. Juries deliver justice, regardless of the law and regardless of politics. Judges are as mad as hell at being rebuked, so they are always trying to pretend that juries do a bad job.

     

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  16.  
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    Violated (profile), Dec 14th, 2011 @ 3:21am

    Re: Guns

    With all due respect then I am quite aware of the many issues involved. Many other countries have the same drug problems, and the same guns, but they do not have the same high murder rate.

    In the United States around 13,000 people die each year from gun crime. If the US had the same firearms murder rate as Germany, or the Scandinavian countries, the comparable death toll by firearms would be roughly 1,000 instead of 13,000. If it had the same firearms murder rate as the UK or Canada, it would be about 2,000 instead of about 13,000.

    Since the end of WWII, completely excluding suicides, something well in excess of half a million more Americans have been killed by firearms than would have been the case if America had a firearms murder rate even as low as Canada (there are more than a dozen countries that have a lower murder rate than Canada, so that isn't a particularly high standard to meet). The actual number is almost certainly closer to 3/4 million.

    That is more people than have been killed in any of America's wars, including the Civil War. In the last 100 years, it is not all that far from the total of all Americans killed in all of America's wars put together.

    This is excluding all the suicides that could have been prevented. This is excluding all the people who were shot but have recovered... physically at least.

    America's political belief over guns is a vastly greater menace to your fellow countrymen than is your government; than is any terrorist group; than is any foreign military threat.

     

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  17.  
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    John Doe, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 4:16am

    Sure it does

    Denying someone from mentioning what they're thinking doesn't stop them from thinking what they're thinking.

    Sure it does. When I close my eyes, I can't see you and you can't see me.

     

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  18.  
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    abc gum, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 5:09am

    Re:

    "You jail more people than the rest of the World combined"

    Yes, you are correct in the assessment that many people in prison do not belong there. But that is inevitable with a for profit prison system. And they laughed when asked, "what could possibly go wrong?".

    I have read that the US per capita incarceration rate is rather high compared to other nations, (were #1 rah!) but I somehow missed the tidbit to which you refer - that the sum total US quantity exceeds that of the entire planet.

     

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  19.  
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    abc gum, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 5:14am

    Re: Re: Guns

    "America's political belief over guns is a vastly greater menace to your fellow countrymen than is your government; than is any terrorist group; than is any foreign military threat."

    Lol-Wut?

    At first ... benefit of doubt was granted,
    this however, takes the cake.

    That axe being ground, just what is it for, dare I ask?

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 6:22am

    Re: Sure it does

    I thought you needed to wrap a towel around your head for that?

     

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  21.  
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    known coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 6:35am

    from the article

    However the state Supreme Court has reversed that decision.

    "Because of the very nature of Twitter as an... online social media site, Juror 2's tweets about the trial were very much public discussions," wrote Associate Justice Donald Corbin.

    "Even if such discussions were one-sided, it is in no way appropriate for a juror to state musings, thoughts or other information about a case in such a public fashion."

    One of Mr Dimas-Martinez's lawyers said the case was likely to bring in new rules.

    "It's not about your right to tweet or be on Facebook," Janice Vaughn said.

    "It's about protecting the right of the person who may end up behind bars or end up losing a significant amount of money in a civil case."


    Works for me. In a capital murder case The juror disobeyed jury instructions. Yes it is easy to twit or post on facebook, but somethings just do not belong there. Just because it is easy does not make something right or legal to do.

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 6:57am

    If the choice comes down to a juror tweeting to a public forum or a defendant's right to a fair trial, I will opt for the latter every time.

     

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  23.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 7:41am

    I think his mention of "hearts will be broken" basically exposed the juror's intent to convict. That is directly discussing the case.

    Why do people feel this constant need to expose the rest of the world to their boring lives? I really don't want to know every action of my friends. If something interesting happens in your life, share it, but please keep the mundane aspects of your life to yourself. No one cares what you are eating for dinner, no one cares what color shirt you're wearing today, etc...

     

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  24.  
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    Pixelation, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 7:55am

    Deterrent

    This one is easy to prevent. Let the jurors know that if they break the rules they will be put in a cell alone with the defendant for an hour.

     

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  25.  
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    Lord Binky, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 8:30am

    I think the judge was pissed off about the coffee comment, Nobody insults his coffee damnit.

     

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  26.  
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    pjcamp, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 8:43am

    purpose is not to prevent you from having thoughts

    The purpose is to prevent you from influencing the thoughts of other jurors in any way until both sides have rested their cases.

     

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  27.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Dec 14th, 2011 @ 12:18pm

    Re:

    Odd set of comments.

    On full prisons on sheer numbers you're right though the UK is no slouch when it comes to packing prisons either, Then again, if China didn't quickly execute people for a wide range of offenses up to and including looking the wrong way at a party functionary they'd easily win that award.

    Your screed gos on to criticize American gun culture, largely handgun culture. For what it's worth there are about 50 different sets of rules in the United States about who can legally purchase a handgun and whether or not they can carry one. (More if you total up cities that can have their own too.)

    Coming from England which has a thriving custom hand and log gun industry that's a bit rich. And, even with relatively tight handgun ownership rules and registration still has one of the highest per capita possession of the things in the world.

    Not all Americans love their handguns in the mad, passionate way you think they do. Most, in fact, loathe them. A small minority make most of the noise. But all agree, however that their Constitution is right on protecting the right to own them. Most of the discussion and argument is around the "a well regulated militia" bit.

    And given the UK's recent record of shooting sprees I'd not point an accusing finger at the US when it comes to that. Or the relative safety of malls in the UK compared to the USA.

    I'll agree with the high murder rate in the United States but like anywhere else it's rarely stranger murder. It's most often immediate family or friends and associates. Even in the UK. And while I'm on the topic of high murder rates; until the end of World War I it was England that had the highest murder rate in the world by handgun or any other means.

    For what it's worth I feel safer in New York City than I do in London. I've never been mugged in the Big Apple. I wish I could say the same for London.

    As for race relations and ethnic tensions I would advise you that England is hardly the place I'd look to for an example of good relations. Let me expand that to most of Europe as well. Just so you don't feel too, too picked on. At least Americans are struggling to get their relations better. The English seem to be getting much, much worse. (We Canadians are somewhere in the middle. Sometimes perhaps much worse because our racism is expressed quietly or silently though while denying it we act on it.)

    Oh, and while I'm on that sort of thing have you lot solved your class problems and wars yet? Please let me know when you have.

    "We in the UK are quite lacking in guns and the gun culture." Bull. Complete, smelly cow patties. Fail. Untrue. A lot of Englishmen want to kid themselves that they have no gun culture but you have a rick history of same. Remember, you're the lot that invented such "sports" as fox hunting and where the middle class still spends weekends skeet shooting so they can pretend they're upper class. I'd go on but it's likely pointless. Of course England has a gun culture, Scotland has a gun culture, Wales has a gun culture. Northern Ireland certainly does.
    Oh, and as for numbers you Brits are swimming in firearms. A lot of them in finely crafted wood display cases but you're still swimming in them. Like most people you just ignore that detail because life has to go on, the mall must be visited and one occasionally has to walk down the street.
    Oh, and Canada has at LEAST one gun culture. More than likely two. One for the big three metro areas and one for rural and semi rural areas. The other major cities seem split. BUT, like my relatives in England and Scotland we all know at least one person who legally owns at least one weapon and probably more people we know and where the subject just hasn't come up.

    The only thing funnier than the English is their occasional burst of confused morality. To which I'd add, a close second are the outbursts of superiority and smugness from south of Hardians's Wall.

     

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  28.  
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    TtfnJohn (profile), Dec 14th, 2011 @ 12:25pm

    Re: Re: Re: Guns

    To use in case his hand made custom rifle fails to fire.

    Typical middle class English bunkum and pretension.

    (I'm Canadian, by the way, stuck between the US and England when they get into this sort of discussion as ever on everything. Though the English middle class and those aspiring too it are often either amusing or intolerable. In this it's becoming intolerable.)

     

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  29.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 12:27pm

    Re: Re:

    15 years for hacking Gene Simmons' website.....

    Yea, we def have a prison problem. :)

     

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  30.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

    Re:

    Me too. This is one time I just don't side with Mike. Sorry.

     

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  31.  
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    Mike Masnick (profile), Dec 14th, 2011 @ 1:11pm

    Re:

    If the choice comes down to a juror tweeting to a public forum or a defendant's right to a fair trial, I will opt for the latter every time.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma

     

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  32.  
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    Willton, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 4:59pm

    Re: Re:

    If the choice comes down to a juror tweeting to a public forum or a defendant's right to a fair trial, I will opt for the latter every time.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/False_dilemma


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_herring_(fal lacy)

     

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  33.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 14th, 2011 @ 6:13pm

    Re: Re:

    Perhaps you might re-think your view if, Heaven forbid, you ever find yourself in court as a defendant in a criminal proceeding.

     

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