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Posted on 12.14.2011

The Tweet that Saved the Jailbird

Ever said something that had way bigger consequences than you imagined it would?  Ever sent a Tweet, or made a post, or even hit send on an email that ended up being circulated to a group much larger than you intended? Ever gotten someone off death row? Arkansas resident Randy Franco can answer “yes” in all cases. Franco was a juror in a 2010 capital trial in which Erickson Dimas-Martinez was found guilty and sentenced to death by lethal injection for the murder of an Arkansas teenager. nashville PR firm discusses juror tweet
Disregarding the judge’s admonitions against the use of electronic communications during the trial, Franco tweeted several musings like, “Choices to be made. Hearts to be broken. We each define the great line,” and, “If its [sic] wisdom we seek …We should run to the strong tower.” Franco also wrote, “Its [sic] over,” 45 minutes prior to the court’s public announcement of the guilty verdict. After the conclusion of the trial, the court discovered the tweets and questioned Franco, who argued he had not given specifics about the case. He claimed his tweets did not suggest he had made up his mind before all of the facts had been presented.
An Arkansas circuit court agreed with Franco and denied Dimas-Martinez’s motion for a new trial. However, the Arkansas Supreme Court overturned that decision last week and concluded that it was inappropriate for a juror to post information or thoughts about the case on a public outlet, regardless of whether the discussion was one-sided. While the Dimas-Martinez case may bring about new guidelines regarding the use of social media and mobile devices in court, Twitter mishaps like Franco’s happen more often than they should. Below are a few things to keep in mind when managing Twitter account(s): Know your followers. One of Franco’s followers was allegedly a reporter. Had Franco monitored his followers more closely, he may have given second thought to broadcasting his tweet about the case to a journalist. Determine the demographic you are trying to reach on Twitter and be specific in those you follow. Protect your tweets. If your Twitter account is for personal use, you may want to set your account to private to allow views from approved subscribers only. While it’s best to leave business Twitter accounts public, it’s a good idea to take the content of personal accounts into consideration and use privacy settings accordingly. Fine-tune your message. In the conversation with the judge, Franco had a hard time justifying what he meant by some of his tweets. In this case, the juror used the tweet’s ambiguity for his advantage, claiming that the message was neutral –later clarifying that “define the great line” was a reference to an album by the band Underoath. Although Franco should not have gone against court orders to tweet, had he been less ambiguous in his message he may have had a stronger argument. Make sure your tweet is clear and well thought out. Think before you tweet.
In today’s social media world, impulsiveness often results in a PR crisis. Much like firing off that angry email, posting a tweet in the heat of the moment can have dire consequences. Along these lines, be sure you are posting from the correct Twitter handle. As we’ve seen in the past, there have been several examples of tweets gone haywire when someone who manages Twitter messaging for both business and personal reasons makes an errant post from the wrong account.

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