When Jurors Tweet
Chicago attorney Robert Clifford recently published an interesting article titled “Twittering in the Jury Box.” In the article, Clifford reports that in March a company asked an Arkansas court to overturn a $12.6 million judgment because a juror used Twitter before, during and after the trial, demonstrating bias. One Twitter message from the juror read: “I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else’s money.“ Washington County Circuit Court Judge Mark Lindsay dismissed the request to overturn the judgment. The Associated Press reported that “while Lindsay said the posts by the juror Johnathan Powell were in bad taste, the messages didn’t amount to improper conduct.” Greg Brown, attorney for the successful plaintiff, said that it was obvious that information about the trial had “gone out but nothing came in.” In other words, no outside information had reaches the jurors. While Powell had sent some information out, the judge found that it did not deprive the parties of a fair trial.
Also in March, attorneys for former Pennsylvania state senator Vincent Fumo asked for a retrial in a federal corruption case because a juror posted updates about the case on Twitter as well as Facebook. The tweeting juror told his followers to get ready for a “big announcement” after the jury had deliberated for six days. The judge did not dismiss this juror, and Fumo was convicted on 137 charges. His lawyers plan to appeal.
Last year, a British court did dismiss a juror after she posted details about a sexual assault case on her Facebook page and wrote, “I don’t know which way to go, so I’m holding a poll.”
If you’re not familiar with Twitter, then you’re behind the times. Social media applications like Twitter and Facebook are not just for kids these days. They’re popular among adults and businesses. In fact, you can follow me on Twitter. (But don’t expect to learn about the details of any of my cases!)
Twitter is a free social media application that allows subscribers to send out short text messages to their followers. The text messages are limited at 140 characters. The messages, or “tweets,” may be received online or as cell phone text messages.
There are currently more than six million Twitter users who send out approximately 25 million tweets a day. Twitter is changing the way that news is broadcast, as it allows for instantaneous transmission of news.
During a recent interview with CNBC, President Obama called Kanye West a “jackass” in an off-the-record comment. However, ABC reporter Terry Moran hearted the comment and posted it on Twitter. Moran quickly deleted his tweet, but the damage was already done. ABC was forced to apologize for Moran’s journalistic breach.
From the courtroom to the newsroom, social media applications are changing the way things are done. Some judges now allow live blogging by reporters during trials.
My personal injury law blog and Twitter account have certainly affected my law practice. They help me to stay abreast of all the latest developments in personal injury law.