Juror's bad-coffee tweets get death row inmate new trial

Several tweets--including "the coffee sucks here"--by a juror lead an Arkansas judge to order a new trial for a death row inmate convicted of murder.

Some people take Twitter more seriously than they do many other things. Jury duty, for example.

At least that seems to be the case after an Arkansas judge decided today that death row inmate Erickson Dimas-Martinez deserved another trial. Dimas-Martinez had been convicted in 2010 of murder by a jury that may, or may not, have been paying full attention.

One juror was apparently caught napping. Then there was Juror 2. He was subsequently revealed to be named Randy Franco and he seemed frankly engrossed in his Twitter feed. So much so that he kept on tweeting even after the judge had questioned him about tweeting and the need to not tweet.

CC Shawn Campbell/Flickr

Arkansas Supreme Court associate justice Donald Corbin wrote:

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. 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.

Now, about those musings. One tweet reportedly read: "The coffee sucks here." Which, I suppose, might lead some to believe that a juror would want to declare a quick verdict in order to obtain some fine Starbucks.

Other musings were more philosophical. For example: "Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken...We each define the great line."

We do, and on a daily basis. The Supreme Court defined the great line as being drawn by those who are so desperate to tweet that they toss their civic responsibility to the socially networked winds.

Last year, Franco had defended his in-trial tweeting by saying nothing he posted was about the trial.

The Arkansas Supreme Court, though, wondered whether jurors should have extreme limitations placed on their access to cell phones all through trials.

The restrictions placed on juries do, at times, seem hard to enforce. However, when Franco's actions seemed so blatant and so well-documented, it makes it far easier for defense counsel to claim juror inattention.

Now Dimas-Martinez will again have to face a jury of his peers. I have a feeling none of them will be tweeting about the trial, nor about the courthouse coffee--which I hear is terrible.

 

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