Twitter On Trial As Jurors Tweet Tribunal

Dennis Faas's picture

Two different trials could be thrown out after jurors allegedly discussed the cases on social networking sites. One involves a $12 million civil trial and the other a five-month-long corruption charge.

In one case, the jury decided construction company Stoam Holdings should pay $12.6 million compensation to a rival. But lawyers for the firm have complained that juror Johnathan Powell's Twitter comments broke rules when discussing the civil case with the public.

U.S. courts usually allow jurors to discuss how they reached a verdict after the case. However, there are still strict rules against talking about any case as it happens.

Timeline In Question

The arguments in this dispute centre on two points. Powell insists (and the evidence appears to back him up) that he did not make any pertinent updates until after the verdict was given; if that's the case, the objection would presumably be thrown out. (Source:

If Powell did post updates during the trial, the judge must decide whether he was actively discussing the case. Powell says he only posted messages and did not read any replies. Intriguingly, the lawyers for Stoam Holding are not arguing so much that other people directly influenced Powell's judgment, rather that he might have felt a need to agree to a spectacular verdict to impress the people reading his posts. (Source:

Juror Promises Big Announcement

In a separate incident, defense lawyers for former Pennsylvania state Senator Vincent Fumo say his ongoing corruption trial has been tainted by a juror who posted about the case on both Facebook and Twitter. In this case, the trial is so complex that the jury had been deliberating for five days when the defense made its complaint.

It has pointed to several posts the juror made during the deliberation process, including one reading "Stay tuned for a big announcement on Monday everyone!" In this case too, the problem appears not to be that the juror revealed any confidential information, but rather that they may have been influenced by feedback to their posts. (Source:

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