Tweets Lead to Overturn of Murder Conviction

By Richard Console on December 13, 2011 - Comments off

Today it is almost impossible to remove yourself from the digital world; we are constantly connected to the Internet. No matter where we are we are always just a few clicks away from checking out the latest news and videos or updating social networking sites. With this constant connection to the Internet it has made many start to question—have we gone too far?

We, as a society, may have just taken our need to share online to new, dangerous heights. Last week, the Arkansas Supreme Court tossed out a murder conviction and believes death row inmate, Erickson Dimas-Martinez deserves a new trial, the Associated Press reported. All of this is the result of one jurors big mistake—Tweeting.

The juror who caused all of this is Randy Franco. The judge instructed all jurors at the start of the trial that they were not to discuss the case with anyone whether in person or on the Internet. The AP reported that the judge specifically mentioned that jurors were not to use their cell phones or Twitter before opening arguments in the trial.

Despite the warnings, Franco still Tweeted several times during the trial such as,”Court. Day 5. here we go again,” and “The coffee sucks here.” When Franco had to defend his posts last year to a lower court he stated that the Tweets did not reveal anything about the case—that satisfied the lower court judge. This same defense was not acceptable in the eyes of the Arkansas Supreme Court, however, and now a convicted murderer may get a lesser charge than he did on the first trial.

This calls into question many things. First of all, did Franco have a right to post the musings he did? After all, he did not reveal any specific about the case, therefore are his statements protected under the First Amendment? However, the AP spoke with Felecia Epps, a criminal law teacher at University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and she asserted that the issue here isn’t one’s right to tweet it is about the accused’s right to a fair trial.

Our society cannot seem to control the impulse to tell the digital world of our every thought and action. Many times social networking sites have been deemed a distraction, but now it’s to the point where social network users are even freeing murderers. It really makes one give some thought to the dangers of the digital world.

Dimas-Martinez was originally sentenced to death in 2006 for the robbery and murder of 17-year-old Derrick Jefferson. The AP reported the state has not made a decision about what it will do next.

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