Juror’s Tweets During Trial Cause Death Row Inmate’s Murder Conviction To Be Overturned

In 2010, Erickson Dimas-Martinez was convicted of murder for shooting and robbing a teenager after a party in Arkansas in 2006. Prosecutors stated that Dimas-Martinez was a cold-blooded killer without remorse, and demanded the maximum penalty.

He was sentenced to be put to death by lethal injection.

However, the supreme court has now thrown out the case, after Dimas-Martinez’s attorneys successful appealed against the conviction… because a juror used Twitter during the trial.

Juror Randy Franco made multiple tweets during Dimas-Martinez’s trial, including: “Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken … We each define the great line.”

This was despite strict instructions from the judge not to post on the internet or communicate with anyone during the trial. “Just remember, never discuss this case over your cell phone. And don’t Twitter anybody about this case.”

Franco, who was known as Juror 2 in court documents, sent the tweet “It’s over” to his followers less than an hour before the jury announced its verdict. Other tweets were also published.

“Juror 2’s tweets about the trial were very much public discussions,” Associate Justice Donald Corbin wrote in the Supreme Court verdict. “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. 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.”

Janice Vaughn, one of Dimas-Martinez lawyers, said that “It’s not about your right to tweet or be on Facebook. 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.”

The Arkansas Supreme Court have demanded a retrial, and have asked a panel to consider whether jurors’ access to mobile phones should be limited during trials. A spokesperson for the attorney general has said that the state has not yet decided on its next step.

(Source: BBC. Image credit: Lightspring via Shutterstock.)