Death Row Inmate Awarded New Trial Due to a Tweet

    December 13, 2011

     The Arkansas Supreme Court tossed out a death row inmate’s murder conviction and said he deserves a new trial because a juror tweeted during court proceedings, Yahoo News reports.

    Erickson Dimas-Martinez appealed his 2010 murder conviction because a juror sent tweets despite the judge’s instruction not to post on the Internet or communicate with anyone about the case.

    In one tweet, juror Randy Franco wrote: “Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken…We each define the great line.” Less than an hour before the jury announced its verdict, he tweeted: “It’s over.”

    Other tweets by Franco made passing references to the trial, with posts such as, “The coffee sucks here” and “Court. Day 5. here we go again.”

    The court said Franco, known as Juror 2 in court documents, violated general instructions to not discuss the case. Before opening arguments, the judge said: “Just remember, never discuss this case over your cell phone … and don’t Twitter anybody about this case.”

    Attorneys must take proactive steps to educate the judge and request specijury instructions to prevent jurors from using social media during trial.  In December 2010, Florida adopted a new standard jury instruction that specifically instrtucts jurors not to tweet during trial:

    http://richmangreerblog.com/2011/03/social-media-law-order-jury-instructions/

    Additionally, attorneys and their support staff should constantly monitor Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites belonging to key parties, witnesses, jurors, and opposing counsel to properly raise any issues to the Court.  As demonstrated above, social media use can significantly impact the outcome of a case – and even reverse a death sentence.  


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