In the latest development in the evolving intersection of law and social media, the Arkansas Supreme Court reversed a murder conviction in part because a juror tweeted during the trial.
About six weeks ago, I wrote about an Illinois civil case against Metra where a juror tweeted some of her experiences. Metra sought to use those tweets to overturn the judgement against it, but both the trial judge and the appellate court found that the tweets did indicate that either any outside influence had been exerted on the jury or that the juror had done anything improper.
In the new Arkansas case, the juror’s tweets also failed to reveal anything improper about the jurors conduct. The tweets included “the coffee sucks” and “choices to be made, hearts to be broken.” The tweets that have been published seem vague enough to me that, in a less serious case, might be considered harmless error. In fact, that is what the lower appellate court had found.
However, this was a capital murder case. Error that might be excusable in a civil case where only money is at stake become inexcusable in a criminal case, when someone’s freedom or life are on the line.
In addition, the jurors in this case were specifically instructed against using twitter during the trial. So this juror disobeyed the Court’s instruction.
Finally, by “tweeting” and participating in social media, one is engaging in a conversation with others — and discussing the trial that one is hearing is an act which is forbidden during jury service.
We will continue to keep a close eye on these cases as they come along.
What do you think?