Since May, I have been writing three blog posts a week for a fantastic technology law non-profit called IT-Lex. During that time, I've cross-posted many of the articles to this blog (though I've written many more than I cross-posted). While writing for IT-Lex, I had the opportunity to learn about social media law, intellectual property law, and eDiscovery. Some of my posts were outside of my area of expertise, but it was always fun to learn about the crazy legal things that can happen with new technologies. Unfortunately, my time writing for IT-Lex has come to an end. I am expecting my first child at the end of the month, and I was unable to continue the commitment to writing the posts for the foreseeable future. (But who knows? Maybe I can write some more posts for them one day!) For the same reason, my legal posts on this site might also drop in number until I am able to get a routine down. I hope to continue updating my personal blog regularly though!
Last Thursday, my last post was published on their site, and it seems a fitting one. As I've mentioned before, I love researching the legal issues that surround the use of social media. And this case involved a Missouri prosecutor who decided to tweet fairly salacious details about a child sexual-assault case. The defendant, who was convicted by the jury, moved to dismiss the verdict based on the prejudicial nature of the tweets, and, when the motion was denied, he appealed.
Ultimately, the court didn't overturn the conviction, but it did issue a strong warning against this type of behavior in the future:
[E]xtraneous statements on Twitter or other forms of social media, particularly during the time frame of the trial, can taint the jury and result in reversal of the verdict. We doubt that using social media to highlight the evidence against the accused and publicly dramatize the plight of the victim serves any legitimate law enforcement purpose or is necessary to inform the public of the nature and extent of the prosecutor’s actions. Likewise, we are concerned that broadcasting that the accused is a “child rapist” is likely to arouse heightened public condemnation. We are especially troubled by the timing of Joyce’s Twitter posts, because broadcasting such statements immediately before and during trial greatly magnifies the risk that a jury will be tainted by undue extrajudicial influences.
This type of warning is unsurprising, and, in my opinion, this prosecutor is lucky. The only thing surprising to me about this case is that a prosecutor would think it was okay to post that type of information on Twitter. As someone with a legal background, I know better than to put anything about the cases that I work on online. In fact, I would never post any information about any job online--especially if the information was not 100% positive. I wonder how much longer these types of cases will arise before attorneys learn that that isn't Twitter's purpose.
About this Blog
I was once a licensed attorney (in Washington), but my license is now inactive. I like to geek out about entertainment,
internet, and privacy law. This blog is a place for me to do that. All of the views expressed are my own and should not be considered legal advice.
My personal blog is located under the tab Pax's Page.
Rachel is a typer of words.