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Steven J. Klearman
Steven J. Klearman
Attorney • (800) 880-5297

Twittering: harmless messaging or juror misconduct?

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Twitter.com is a website that allows members to record their thoughts in 140 character-blogs, twenty four hours a day. Similar to "status" postings on Facebook, Twitter blogs allow a member to share with the rest of the Twitter world, what he is doing or thinking at that moment in time. A recent $12.6 million jury verdict against Stoam Holdings could be overturned because a juror posted blogs on Twitter during the trial, an indication of just how powerful this seemingly harmless practice could be. Johnathan Powell, a juror in the Arkansas case against the building materials manufacturer, posted potentially biased blogs on Twitter from his cell phone.

Before Powell appeared for jury duty, he posted a message saying that he was "trying to learn about Jury duty for tomorrow, but all searches lead me to Suggestions for getting out of it, instead of rocking it." A message posted the day he appeared for jury duty stated, "I guess I’m early. Two Angry Men just won’t do."

Messages sent during trial included, "oh and don’t buy Stoam. Its bad mojo and they’ll probably cease to exist, now that their wallet is 12m lighter" and "So Johnathan, what did you do today? Oh, nothing really, I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else’s money." The first of these also included a link to Stoam’s website.

Stoam Holdings’s attorney has filed a motion requesting a new trial, alleging that Powell sent as many as eight Twitter messages during the trial and that he was not impartial. In his motion, Drew Ledbetter argued that "Juror Jonathan’s public statements show us that he arrived at jury duty with the desire to get on the jury and ‘rock’ the jury. He researched this topic in advance. He arrived as a self described ‘angry’ man."

There is some speculation as to the actual timing of Powell’s messages. The plaintiff’s attorney, Greg Brown argues that a message that was time stamped 2:43 p.m. probably occurred after Powell was done with the trial. Drew Ledbetter, argues, on the other hand, that the time stamps speak for themselves. Powell contends that the time stamps correlate to the viewer’s time zone settings, not the messenger’s.

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