Twelve Angry Tweeps

Last week, I said it was only a matter of time before Twitter gets lassoed into a lawsuit and it looks like that prediction came true...sorta.

My hometown made national news yet again when a building company appealed a legal decision after discovering a Tweep amongst the Twelve:

The motion seeking a new trial was filed Thursday on behalf of Russell Wright and his company, Stoam Holdings. It claims juror Johnathan Powell sent eight messages—or "tweets"—to the micro-blogging Web site via his cellular phone.

According to the motion, one posting listed the company's Web address and read in part: "oh and nobody buy Stoam. Its bad mojo and they'll probably cease to Exist, now that their wallet is 12m lighter."

Another described what "Juror Jonathan" did today: "I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else's money."

Among other inaccuracies, the motion quotes Powell's tweets to describe him as an "angry" man who was ready to "rock" the boat. Powell admits to being overeager: Prior to his forced labor, he researched how to "rock" at jury duty. He also arrived so early that he jokingly wrote "Two Angry Men just won't do" in reference (one automatically assumes) to the other enthusiastic civil servant.

Wright's lawyer claims that his client didn't get a fair trial, presumably because the juror was influenced by outside information. The Brave New World is also barking at the heels of another trial in Philadelphia, where former state Sen. Vincent Fumo will appeal his conviction...on 137 counts. His defense will include evidence of a juror who posted messages on both Facebook and Twitter.

Here's Daniel Richman from Columbia Law School:

Our [legal] doctrine is not made for a wired universe.

The jury system is based on this anachronistic notion that members of the community will come in to court, render their decision and then leave and become ordinary members of the community again. We're coming into a world where the stability of that model is in question.

The two cases haven't attracted a lot of (negative) attention yet. That's probably because it's a politician and a company making the stink. It won't be long, however, before more serious cases arise. The difficulty in distinguishing crap appeals from real threats to a fair trial is going to be a problem. Currently, federal law gives individual courthouses the discretion to set their own policies. And that's exactly how it should be, no matter what else changes.

It's all a big mess. Here's young Powell with the closing argument:

The problem is that they don't understand what it is.

High Five: The Fayetteville Flyer

Jury duty at Reason here. Learn how to avoid Powell's debacle.

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  • Fluffy||

    I think the company actually has a good case.

    The juror seems to have exhibitionist tendencies [many Twitter fuckwads do, really] and it is not unreasonable to assume that he saw his jury duty as an opportunity to engage in a performance, and that therefore the jury verdict was biased by his desire to have something to post on a stupid social network.

  • ||

    Why couldn't he have posted how innocent and awesome the company was? As a lawyer, I certainly expect a jury to be "biased" by the end of the trial.

  • ||

    Twelve people not smart enough to get out of jury duty are not my peers.

  • ||

    A jury of my peers would consist of the starting offense for the 1984 Bears and Captain Sully.

    Bill Braskey would be an alternate.

  • Notary Sojac||

    I must be one of the few people in America who not only wouldn't mind sitting in for jury duty, but also I think I might find it interesting.

  • ||

    he saw his jury duty as an opportunity to engage in a performance

    Fluffy, I am going to go to MTV tomorrow to pitch Court Rules, and when they turn me down, I'll go to Fox with American Defendant, where I will undoubtedly make a sale.

  • ||

    "PEERS?! How dare you! That repulsive display of humanity out there? NO WAY! A list of my peers would read as follows: Flying Squid and Tigeriffic; Truckules; Lord Mostly-Magic; King Fantastic Outfit; Fee Waybill of the Tubes; SuicideGirl Teagan; Bill "Superfoot" Wallace; Happy-Go-Clucky and Swiss Misstery; Chaka Igloo; and my 8th grade earth science teacher Mr. Tringe! Oh... and Bizarro Oscar Wilde as an alternate."

  • ||

    And yet, this self-absorbed idiot is still not enough to make me give 2 shits about Twitter.

  • ||

    The only peer I recognize is General Zod.

  • ||

    SuicideGirl Teagan

    The Monarch has interesting peers.

  • ||

    Notary Sojac, I'm with you. I want to be on a jury, especially in a case like Ryan Frederick where I would be a peer to anyone who wanted to live free from oppression.

    Too dramatic?

    OK, I want to be on jury duty to get out of my real job fof a little while. It's just a job and I want to make sure no one gets screwed by The Man.

  • hagbard||

    I'm happy with Twitter getting screwed over. Some asshole signed up with my email and I'm now drowning in Twitter messages. And no success on getting off their system.

  • The Angry Optimist||

    how does Twitter work? Are they text messages you receive or e-mails or what?

  • T||

    Some asshole signed up with my email and I'm now drowning in Twitter messages. And no success on getting off their system.

    You think that's bad? Some jackass signed up to Netflix with the wrong email address (i.e. mine) and Netflix categorically refused to do anything about it. For 3 years.

    I've said this before, and I'll say it again: Tony G., of Oak Park, Illinois? You have shit taste in movies and are too stupid to know your own email address.

  • T||

    Aaah, crap. And I'm too stupid to know how to close an HTML tag.

  • creech||

    What is this "jury of peers" stuff? If you are middle-class, they have to be too? If you have a masters degree, they must too? If you are Asian, they must be Asian too? I was under the impression the 6th amendment guaranteed the right to a speedy trial by an "impartial" jury.

  • Shannon Love||

    Certainly, I think we will see the end of the concept that jurors will only make decisions based on the information presented to them in court. The cases above concern information that flowed out of the court but people can also receive information. That means that all of our rules of evidence and testimony could be thrown out the window as jurors make decisions based on external information.

    That could be bad in the long run. It could make trials nothing but formalities to ratify the decisions already made in the media and internet discourse.

  • ||

    TAO,

    Twitter sends exciting updates ("Soup is DA BOM!" "Did you see that Arby's commercial???? LOL!!!1!") to your cell as a text msg. It also goes to email and the website.

    It is the worst thing ever.

  • ||

    FrBunny, you're just an old fart for not wanting to be bombarded by exhibitionist retards all day.

    In fact, I just had lunch! It was a mango and a banana! Why don't you find this interesting?!?

  • ||

    I think Balko is as close as I've got to a real-live hero, but posting a Tweet about posting on a blog has got to open up some sort of positive-feedback loop that will destroy us all.

  • ||

    I was under the impression the 6th amendment guaranteed the right to a speedy trial by an "impartial" jury.

    Then I will demand a jury of libertarians whose only agenda is justice...bitches!

  • Fluffy||

    "Why couldn't he have posted how innocent and awesome the company was? As a lawyer, I certainly expect a jury to be "biased" by the end of the trial."

    Lamar, I think the postings themselves hint us in the right direction - the guy is obviously EXCITED by the prospect of being able to post that he "gave away" 12 million dollars.

    If I was posting on Hit and Run during breaks in a trial for someone suing McDonald's for making them fat, and my messages were things like, "Stay tuned! I'm about to make this fat bitch cry!" and "Everybody be sure to be logged in when I post a cell phone picture of the defendants high-fiving their lawyers!" or what have you, I think the plaintiffs would have a case that I was biased, and was making my judgments as a juror based not on the evidence but based on how much fun I could have making libertarians laugh with my comments. [So naturally, although I would be thinking all of the above, I would not actually post any of that anywhere.]

  • @Fluffy||

    "[many Twitter fuckwads do, really]"

    Beautiful.

  • ||

    What is this "jury of peers" stuff?

    That term goes way, way back to Olde Englande. If you were a noble accused of a crime by a commoner, your jury would be composed of fellow nobles. Presumably, the converse was also true.

  • Stagman||

    Certainly, I think we will see the end of the concept that jurors will only make decisions based on the information presented to them in court. The cases above concern information that flowed out of the court but people can also receive information. That means that all of our rules of evidence and testimony could be thrown out the window as jurors make decisions based on external information.

    That could be bad in the long run. It could make trials nothing but formalities to ratify the decisions already made in the media and internet discourse.


    It more likely means that lawyers (speaking as a lawyer) will pick juries of nothing but techno-tards. The average age of juror will likely end up being 60.

  • Maitri||

    Sequestration can include cellphones. No cellphone, no computer, no tweets.

  • random guy||

    To those who have had others use their e-mails to sign up for twitter, netflix, etc.- use the "lost password" link to get the password reset. Then login and cancel the account, or have some fun with it.

    For the netflix guy, erase his movie queue and replace it with movies completely different- if it is full of family fare, try ultra-violent action movies and vice versa.

  • Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami||

    Sequestration can include cellphones.

    People are taking these horses as their husbands? What's sequestration?

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