Constitutional Law

Convicted Murder Defendant Sentenced to Death Gets New Trial over Juror's Tweets


Agreeing with a convicted murderer on death row that he didn’t get a fair trial because of one juror’s tweets on Twitter, the Arkansas Supreme Court has reversed a jury’s guilty verdict against Erickson Dimas-Martinez.

Although a lower court had agreed with a state argument that Dimas-Martinez “suffered no prejudice” because juror Randy Franco tweeted repeatedly about his feelings rather than substantive information concerning the evidence in the case, the supreme court wasn’t persuaded, Reuters reports.

“Prejudice results from the fact that the juror admitted to the misconduct, which proves that he failed to follow the court’s instructions, and it is the failure to follow the law that prejudiced appellant,” Justice Donald Corbin wrote in the court’s opinion (PDF) today.

The supreme court suggested that juror rules may need to be revised to preclude jurors from having access to cellphones during trial. Although existing rules prohibit jurors from discussing the case on the Internet, Franco not only did so but repeated the misconduct after he was warned not to, the opinion notes.

The supreme court also held that Judge David Clinger abused his discretion by not declaring a mistrial in the Benton County case when another juror fell asleep for five minutes, reports the Arkansas Blog of Arkansas Times.

Earlier coverage:

ABAJournal.com: “New Trial Sought for Death Row Inmate over Jurors’ Tweeting and Napping”

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