Death Row Inmate Erickson Dimas-Martinez Gets New Trial Because Of Juror's Tweet

Dec 8, 2004
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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday tossed out a death row inmate's murder conviction and said he deserves a new trial because one juror slept and another tweeted during court proceedings.

Erickson Dimas-Martinez's attorneys had appealed his 2010 murder conviction because a juror sent tweets despite the judge's instruction not to post on the Internet or communicate with anyone about the case. The lawyers also complained that another juror slept.

In one tweet, juror Randy Franco 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."

Other tweets by Franco made passing references to the trial, with posts such as, "The coffee sucks here" and "Court. Day 5. here we go again."

The court said Franco, known as Juror 2 in court documents, violated general instructions to not discuss the case. Before opening arguments, the judge said: "Just remember, never discuss this case over your cell phone ... and don't Twitter anybody about this case."

Franco didn't immediately return a message left Thursday, but he has defended his tweets in the past.

"None of my texts indicated anything about the trial," he told the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette last year. "I hadn't made up my mind."

That explanation seemed to satisfy a lower court judge, but it didn't sit well with the state's highest court.

"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," Associate Justice Donald Corbin wrote.

The justices also used the case to point out that a wide array of juror misconduct can come into play when jurors have unrestricted access to their cell phones during a trial.

"Most mobile phones now allow instant access to a myriad of information. Not only can jurors access Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites, but they can also access news sites that might have information about a case," Corbin wrote.

He also asked a panel to consider whether to limit jurors' access to cell phones during trials.

Janice Vaughn, who argued Dimas-Martinez's case in front of the state Supreme Court last month, said the case will likely bring about new rules governing jurors' cell phone usage.

"It's not about your right to tweet or be on Facebook," said Felecia Epps, who teaches criminal law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. "It's about protecting the right of the person who may end up behind bars or end up losing a significant amount of money in a civil case."

An assistant attorney general had argued that the tweets were merely about the juror's feelings and not about specifics of the trial. Aaron Sadler, a spokesman for the attorney general, said Thursday that the state hasn't decided what it will do next.

"We are currently reviewing the Court's decision and will confer with the local prosecutor on next steps," Sadler said in an email.

Courts in Arkansas and around the country are grappling with problems caused by jurors using Twitter, Facebook or other online services during trials. In 2009, a Washington County judge dismissed an attempt to overturn a $12.6 million judgment against a building materials company, despite the firm's complaint that a juror's Twitter posts showed bias.

Dimas-Martinez, now 26, was sent to death row for robbing and shooting a teenager after a party in northwest Arkansas in 2006. Prosecutors said Dimas-Martinez held 17-year-old Derrick Jefferson at gunpoint and demanded his money before he shot him.

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ruckstande

Posts mostly from the shitter.
Apr 2, 2005
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I'm not sure what he said wrong? I couldn't tell how he felt by it.
 
Jun 2, 2005
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Our jury system is going down the tubes. It's a little more than a bad joke as it is.
 

whiskeyguy

PR representative for Drunk Whiskeyguy.
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Jan 12, 2010
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#6
This asshole should be thrown in jail ten or so days for wasting more taxpayer money.
 
Jan 9, 2006
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Delmar, NY
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when the judge says don't do something, don't fucking do it.
This.

"It's not about your right to tweet or be on Facebook," said Felecia Epps, who teaches criminal law at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. "It's about protecting the right of the person who may end up behind bars or end up losing a significant amount of money in a civil case."
And this.
 
Dec 8, 2004
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Aaaaand...

Juror gets caught adding female defendant to Facebook friend’s list

Why bother paying attention to the rules of the legal system when you can use Facebook to hit on people facing charges in court? A 22-year old juror in Texas finds out why the court frowns on such matters.

When Jonathan Hudson of Arlington, Texas sent a Facebook friend request to Courtney Downing, he probably didn’t realize that it would eventually result in four charges of contempt of court. At the time of the friend request, Hudson was taking a break from delivering pizzas to serve on a Texas jury. Courtney Downing happened to be the defendant in the case that concerned a 2008 car wreck and Hudson thought it would be a brilliant idea to befriend Downing on Facebook during the trial. Downing reported the friend request to her attorney and this led the judge to dismiss Hudson from the jury immediately.

After being dismissed, Hudson contacted Downing on Facebook yet again through the messaging system pretending to have befriended the wrong Courtney Downing. This course of action yielded no help for Hudson and he ended up pleading guilty to contempt charges last week. Hudson could have faced up to six months in prison for his actions, but the court sentenced him to 16 hours of community service to be determined by the court bailiff.

Texas recently added specific language regarding the misuse of social media to the instructions that a judge reads to potential jurors before a trial begins. This inclusion specifically targets updating Facebook and Twitter status with details of an ongoing trial. With periods of lengthy downtime during a typical trial, jurors often turn to smartphones to pass the time.

A similar case happened in the UK during June 2011 when a juror reached out on Facebook to the defendant facing charges around drug distribution. The illegal communication caused the entire trial to collapse and the juror faces a potential penalty for the entire cost of the trial, an astounding 6 million pounds. The juror, a 40 year old mother of three, was eventually sentenced to eight months in prison for the contempt charges.

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