Erickson Dimas-Martinez was convicted of murder last year for killing and robbing 17-year-old Derrick Jefferson in 2006. He received the death penalty for the crime, and was awaiting execution by lethal injection on death row.
However, Arkansas Supreme Court judges have had to overturn the conviction due to inappropriate tweeting by a juror while the trial was ongoing. Juror Randy Franco had posted several musings to Twitter during the trial. "Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken... We each define the great line," one of his tweets read.
Dimas-Martinez' lawyers had appealed against the conviction as the judge had instructed the jury not to post comments on the Internet, or discuss the case using their mobile devices in court. The judge scalded Mr Franco about his actions shortly after becoming aware of them.
"I'm waiting for the other 11 to [jurors] to help me come to a conclusion... I have not seen death in my life, like, firsthand. So the talk of death is a little uncomfortable just because it's an unknown - it's an unknown area for me," Mr Franco told the judge.
The circuit court judge then denied a motion for a new trial for Dimas-Martinez as Franco never tweeted actual specifics of the case. Defence lawyers took their case to the state Supreme Court in response, and it reversed the lower court's decision.
"Because of the very nature of Twitter as an... online social media site, Juror 2's tweets about the trial were very much public discussions," wrote Associate Justice Donald Corbin. "Even if such discussions were one-sided, it is in no way appropriate for a juror to state musings, thoughts or other information about a case in such a public fashion."
Janice Vaughn, a lawyer for Dimas-Martinez, said it is not about the rights of jurors to use, or not use social networks or other public services during a trial, but instead its about protecting the right of the person who may end up in prison or losing a significant amount of money in a civil case.
The state Supreme Court recommended a retrial in the case, though the attorney general has not decided what the next step will be for the state.
Written by: James Delahunty @ 11 Dec 2011 10:01