Find out more →

Get unlimited access. Become a digital member!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Supreme Court overturns death penalty over sleeping, Twittering jurors

Posted By on Thu, Dec 8, 2011 at 9:39 AM

The Arkansas Supreme Court today reversed the capital murder conviction and death sentence of Erickson Dimas-Martinez in Benton County because Judge David Clinger failed to call a mistrial or dismiss jurors who'd either slept during the trial or who'd disregarded the judge's instructions and used his cell phone to Twitter during the trial and jury deliberations.

The court ordered a new trial for the defendant in the slaying of Derrick Jefferson, 17, after a robbery.

The Supreme Court found Clinger had abused discretion in refusing a defense request to dismiss a juror seen sleeping for as long as five minutes. The court has turned back other cases on sleeping jurors, but said this one was a different matter. It said a juror who slept five minutes had no way of knowing whether something important had been missed. The juror had claimed as much. Since the objection was properly raised, the judge had an opportunity to substitute an alternate, but failed to do so.

The court also reversed the conviction because of a juror's use of Twitter, reported by news media at the time. He was questioned about it during the trial, but, despite that, the court noted, he continued to Twitter in disregard of the judge's order afterward. The state contended that since his remarks weren't specifically about the case, it was harmless to the outcome.

The court said, however, in an opinion written by Justice Donald Corbin, that the very nature of Twitter — with public messages distributed to the worldwide web — meant that the juror's comments constituted a publid discussion. The court said "it is in no way appropriate" for a juror to "state musings, thoughts or other information" in such a fashion. The Supreme Court noted that it had adopted a rule in 2010 to prohibit use of electronic devices in court except as allowed by a judge. This case illustrates the dangers, the court said, particularly the juror's communication with a news reporter that allowed news that a verdict had been reached to be publicly disclosed before it was announced.

Noting the possiblity for misconduct because of the powers of mobile phones, the Supreme Court referred to its Civil Practice Committee the question of whether jurors' access to phones should be limited during trials.

Here's the opinion.

Tags: , , , , , ,

Speaking of...

Comments (3)

Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

 
Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-3 of 3

Add a comment

More by Max Brantley

  • Consequences for violating the Freedom of Information Act

    I was happy to read in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette today that Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley intends to file a charge of violation of the Freedom of Information Act against Rodney Forte, director of the Metroopolitan Housing Agency of Little Rock. Prosecution might be the only cure for arrogant and stupid public officials, who aren't limited to the housing agency.
    • Oct 30, 2014
  • The Democratic push for black voter turnout unsettles white Republicans

    Democratic groups are using racially charged images to turn out the black votes, nationally and in Arkansas, and Republicans aren't happy about it. Truth hurts.
    • Oct 30, 2014
  • More »

Most Shared

  • Koch mailer: We know who you are, we know if you vote

    Still more complaints rolling in — including from Republicans — about the mail campaign of the Koch-brothers-funded Americans for Prosperity to scare people into voting.
  • Pat Hays' NRA membership riles Republicans

    Democratic 2nd District Congress candidate Pat Hays is causing conniption fits among Republicans because a new TV ad shows him with his guns and mentions his long-time membership in the National Rifle Association.
  • Talk is cheap; state government isn't: Preparing for the new GOP order

    The state looks at rising prison and school costs in a world where the theme of Republican political campaigns is reducing government and cutting taxes. Does anybody in that party know arithmetic?
  • Live Review: Nahko and Medicine for the People at Rev Room

    Thursday night, Portland, Oregon’s Nahko and Medicine for the People brought their “musical medicine” to Little Rock’s Revolution Music Room, a fitting venue for the socially-conscious music collective. Their uplifting medley of folk, urban and world music, as well as hypnotizing videos featuring their music have enchanted activist-minded music fans across the world in the relatively short time they have been creating music together.
  • What about the Arkansas ballot issues?

    To give the legislature more power, the people less, a wetter state, longer term limits and a bump in the minimum wage.

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments

Blogroll

 

© 2014 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation