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Trials & Litigation

First Jurors, Now Defendants Tweet Mid-Trial

Posted Feb 9, 2010 12:17 PM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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There are dozens of reports of jurors tweeting while court is in session and during deliberations. So much so that even the Judicial Conference has taken notice and OK'd model rules to address juror tweets, texts and social media use.

But what about defendants? Should they tweet during their own trials?

Separate stories in the Detroit News and Pittsburgh Tribune-Review identify defendants who opted to tweet mid-trial.

In Pittsburgh, during a public corruption trial, defendant Stephen Keefer posted status updates to Twitter, including what was thought to be a last tweet: "Sorry folks ... no more tweeting from trial." The Tribune-Review reports that Keefer added: "AG's [attorneys general] R worried about me saying anything bad about [Tom] Corbett or this phony investigation."

Despite his e-vow to stop tweeting, the Tribune-Review reports that Keefer resumed his online diary the following day.

In Detroit, political corruption defendant Sam Riddle used Twitter and Facebook status updates during jury deliberations to voice displeasure with his counsel.

The Detroit News reports that Riddle tweeted two things during deliberations. In the first, he wrote, "When your fate is in the hand of others, man, that is not a good feeling, especially when those that are to define you simply don't."

And then later, "Until today I never understood the true depth that ineffective counsel could achieve. The 6th Amendment screams for justice."

The Tribune-Review spoke with New York Times lawyer George Freeman, who advocates that reporters be allowed to use Twitter and other social media to cover court proceedings.

And to Freeman, Keefer's posts weren't out of line.

"I'm not sure I see the real evil in that," Freeman said. "[But] the last thing you want is a juror reading the tweets of a defendant. I don't think that's a good idea."

Related coverage:

Baltimore Sun (editorial): "Twitter crackdown in Baltimore Circuit Court"

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