Twitter Used as Defense in Death Penalty Appeal

Twitter is being singled out in the courtroom as a possible disturbance, causing a murder trial to become a media “circus”. The defense of a man convicted of killing a mother and her two daughters is appealing his conviction on the grounds that Twitter, among other things, prevented the judge from ruling fairly.

The New York Times obtained court filings yesterday that name Twitter as one reason why the now-infamous Cheshire, Connecticut home invasion murder trial should be appealed. The judged ruled on December 2nd that Steven J. Hayes, one of the two murder suspects, would be sentenced to death.

The appeal cites the mainstream media’s excessive use of Twitter as part of the cause for the media circus surrounding the trial. The defense went on to assert that the inflammatory details in tweets and other media influenced the jury and swayed public passion.

This brings up an issue that the courts are going to have to grapple with – new media during trials. There have been court cases in which the judge had to sternly warn jury members not to tweet or access their Facebook profiles during trial.

Because smart phones and other devices are quickly becoming ubiquitous, it’s tough for courts to eliminate them from the jury completely. Not only this, but the media now has additional responsibilities in maintaining a professional approach to court cases within a 140-character limit.