New Trial Sought for Death Row Inmate over Jurors' Tweeting and Napping

A lawyer for a death row inmate argued before the Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday that the conviction should be overturned because one juror was tweeting during the trial and another was apparently napping.

Lawyer Janice Vaughn of the Arkansas Public Defender Commission argued on behalf of Erickson Dimas-Martinez, convicted in a robbery and murder, report the Associated Press and the Arkansas News Bureau.

Vaughn said jurors were warned not to tweet anything about the case, but one was tweeting from the jury box and jury room, according to the stories. “He’s paying more attention to his Twittering than the evidence,” Vaughn told the justices.

Assistant Attorney General Eileen Harrison argued for the state that the juror tweeted only three or four times. The Twitter posts were about his feelings, not the substance of the case, she said. He had tweeted that “the coffee sucks” and that he was reluctant to deal with the death penalty, for example. Justice Donald Corbin was skeptical of her arguments, according to the Arkansas News story. “What if I was up here texting somebody while you’re talking to me?” he asked. “Would that not bother you?”

Vaughn told the justices the tweeting juror should have been removed, along with a juror caught with his eyes closed. When the judge asked the possibly napping juror if he had missed anything, the juror had replied, “Not really.”

Justice Robert Brown questioned Harrison’s assertion that the juror did not need to be removed. “Is the state’s position that you can sleep a little bit during a … case but not much?” Brown asked.

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