Death Penalty Conviction Thrown Out Due To Juror Tweets About Courthouse Coffee
Convicted murderer Erickson Dimas-Martinez owes his life to Twitter. Dimas-Martinez, in 2010, was convicted of killing a 17-year old and subsequently sentenced to death by lethal injection in the state of Arkansas. Luckily for him, one of the jurors on the case, Randy Franco, tweeted about the subpar quality of the courthouse coffee so now he gets to live. No, but really.
Franco tweeted a couple of things during the case including:
“The coffee here sucks”
“Court. Day 5. here we go again”
“Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken… We each define the great line.”
As you can see, they’re mostly inane. That last one is a little bit more iffy, sort of emotional, and more questionably related to the court case. In any event, none of these have anything to do with the details of the case, so what does it matter, right? It matters a whole lot. In response to the tweets, Dimas-Martinez’ lawers appealed the conviction on the grounds that Franco had gone against the judge’s explicit prohibition of discussing the case on the Internet or on a mobile device, of which Franco did both.
The judge of the inital trial denied the motion for a new trial. Franco argued that his tweets said nothing of the details of the case nor did they suggest he’d already made up his mind, which was apparently good enough.
Arkansas Supreme Court however, does not agree and has overturned the conviction. Associate Justice Donald Corbin put it this way:
“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…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.”
And he makes a good point, although the fact that juror was musing about things like coffee and an Underoath album makes it kind of tough to swallow. Dimas-Martinez’ defense lawyers expect this to bring about new, much-needed rules about juror social media interaction during a trial. His defense lawyers also claim one of the jurors fell asleep during the proceedings. Not the best bunch, apparently.
The Supreme Court has recommended a retrial. The attorney general says the state has yet to decide what course of action it will take. Erickson Dimas-Martinez probably won’t get completely off the hook because of this, but he’ll definitely get a second shot at not being sentenced to death, at least. So next time you’re on jury duty just remember that it’s serious business and that you shouldn’t do things if a judge explicitly tells you not to do them. Oh, and also remember not to be an idiot, but you should do that all the time.