Reporters' Tweeting During Trial Distracts Litigants

    April 26, 2012

    Reporters who tweet from the courtroom during trial are a growing trend, however, some litigants object on the grounds that such practice distracts from the court proceedings. Most recently, in the high-profile trial of the man accused of killing the family of singer/actress Jennifer Hudson, the court has barred reporters from tweeting or posting messages to Facebook from inside the courtroom, reports the Daily Business Review. According to a court spokesman, the judge “didn’t want constant typing on cell phones to distract jurors and other courtroom participants.”  Yet, reporters who are restricted from tweeting during trial consider such prohibition an impingement on their First Amendment rights.

    The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press reported last year that that there are “no set standard regarding tweeting from courtrooms and the rules tend to vary from state to state, and at times from trial to trial.” In the trial of Dr. Conrad Murray concerning the death of Michael Jackson, for example, tweeting was permitted and one local news station sent out nearly 1,900 tweets to about 3,000 followers. The report notes that in a tax fraud trial in the courtroom of U.S. District Court Judge Mark Bennett of Iowa, Bennett allowed a reporter to tweet about the proceedings but asked the reporter to sit in the back of the courtroom so that her typing would not be distracting.

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