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Juror's Tweets Result in Overturned Death Sentence

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on December 19, 2011 5:43 AM

Juror's tweets are wreaking havoc, and this time they're costing Arkansas a lot of time and money. The Arkansas Supreme Court has unanimously overturned the murder conviction of death row inmate Erickson Dimas-Martinez.

Prosecutors can blame Juror 2, who tweeted a number of times during trial despite repeated warnings not to do so. He even continued to tweet after being reprimanded by the judge.

One of his followers also happened to be a local reporter.

What's most intriguing about this case is that the content of the juror's tweets was not at issue. Defense attorneys instead argued that the defendant was prejudiced by the juror's failure to follow instructions.

The justices seemed most perturbed by the juror's continuing misconduct. The judge questioned the juror, who gave unclear answers about the tweets' meanings. But because he affirmed that he had not yet made a decision, he was not dismissed.

Despite this, the juror's tweets continued. He tweeted on the day the prosecution rested its rebuttal case. He tweeted during deliberations. And when it was all over, he tweeted that, too.

The court doesn't exactly say how tweeting, regardless of content, is prejudicial. But it implies that a defendant is prejudiced when a juror displays a continuous inability to follow court directions. A failure to acknowledge that inability, the court explains, was an abuse of the trial judge's discretion.

As a result of the juror's tweets, the Arkansas Supreme Court has asked its committees to consider whether mobile phone access should be limited in trial. Will Arkansas be the newest court system to ban electronic devices in courtrooms?

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