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.