An Arkansas man has had his death penalty conviction overturned because one juror during his case was tweeting and another juror fell asleep.
Twenty-six year old Erickson Dimas-Martinez was found guilty in 2010 of robbing and murdering a 17-year-old boy outside of a party in 2006. During his trial, one juror fell asleep, and another posted to his Twitter account regarding the case. While the tweets did not divulge specific details of the case, the juror went against specific instructions to not discuss the case in any manner, online or off.
One of the tweets, made during the sentencing itself, said: “Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken… We each define the great line.” The juror also took to Twitter to comment about his time serving as a juror and even about the quality (or lack thereof) of the coffee at the courthouse, tweeting “The coffee here sucks.” The defense team pointed out his behavior to the judge, who told the juror to stop tweeting about the case. Despite his behavior, the juror was not thrown off the case.
After Dimas-Martinez was found guilty and served with the death penalty, he filed for an appeal. The Arkansas Supreme Court ultimately decided to overturn his conviction because of the inappropriate behavior of the two jurors during his trial, so he will be tried again. In the opinion summary of the appeal, the Arkansas Supreme Court wrote: “Because we conclude that the one juror sleeping and a second juror tweeting constituted juror misconduct, we reverse and remand for a new trial.”
While this may be a problem in Arkansas, in California a law was passed this year to prevent this type of act from happening. CA Assembly Bill 141 prevents the use of electronic and wireless communication to divulge any information about a case.