Saturday, March 14, 2009

juror tweets inspire motion for new trial

Tweetybirdblueb Defense lawyers in Arkansas have moved for a new trial after learning that one of the jurors in the case, Johnathan Powell, used Twitter to share his thoughts with followers. The jury hit defendants Russell Wright and Stoam Industries with a $12.6 million verdict.

Powell told a reporter that "[a]ll of the comments he made on his Titter account about the case were sent after the trial," although other messages were posted before or during deliberations. (A news account says that Twitter's time stamp default is Mountain time; Powell was in the Central Time zone, so add an hour.) For example, some tweets refer to his being a member of the voir dire:

  • a "tweet" listed as outgoing at 6:44 a.m. on February 26: "I guess Im early. Two Angry Men just wont do."
  • at 6:57 a.m.: "Im the only one who brought toys: my laptop and a book"
  • at 8:14 a.m.: "I got selected"

At lunch:

  • 10:25 a.m.: "And the verdict is ... Penguin Eds can not make fries"

That afternoon:

  • 2:09 p.m.: "'So, Johnathan, what did you do today?' Oh, nothing really. I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else's money"
  • 2:43 p.m.: "Oh, and nobody buy Stoam. It's bad mojo, and they'll probably cease to exist, now that their wallet is $12M lighter. http://www.stoam.com/"

What we can't tell from Johnathan's tweets are what messages he may have been receiving from others outside the jury room. While I don't like the idea of twittering jurors as a general proposition (deliberations should be closed, period), I won't be surprised to learn that the judge in this case denies the motion. (On the other hand, Penguin Ed's, a barbecue joint, may want to seek redress.)

To read Juror Johnathan's messages for yourself, including a series of tweets about all the publicity he's received, visit twitter.com/johnathan.

(cmb)

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legalwriting/2009/03/juror-tweets-in.html

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