The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed and remanded a death row inmate’s murder conviction, ordering a new trial because one juror slept and another used the Twitter service during court proceedings.
Significantly, the trial court instructed the jurors prior to opening arguments, as follows:
When you’re back in the jury room, it’s fine with me to use your cell phone if you need to call home or call business. Just remember, never discuss this case over your cell phone. And don’t Twitter anybody about this case. That did happen down in Washington County and almost had a, a $15 million law verdict overthrown. So don’t Twitter. Don’t use your cell phone to talk to anybody about this case other than perhaps the length of the case or something like that.
In one message, the Juror 2 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.” Others including references to the trial, such as, “the coffee sucks here” and “Court. Day 5. Here we go again.”
The supreme court observed:
Because of the very nature of Twitter as an ... online social media site, Juror 2’s tweets about the trial were very much public discussions. Even if such discussions were one-sided, it is in no way appropriate for a juror to state musings, thoughts, or other information about a case in such a public fashion . . . More troubling is the fact that after being questioned about whether he had tweeted during the trial, Juror 2 continued to tweet during the trial.