A Florida City convict won't get a new trial because of filmmaker Billy Corben's Twitter and Facebook posts.
A Miami-Dade judge ruled Wednesday that Corben, who served as the jury foreman for the armed robbery trial of Angelo Williams, did violate a court order to not use social media during his time as a juror. But there was no evidence that the posts violated Williams rights to a fair trial, the judge ruled Wednesday in denying a motion for a new trial.
The posts, which did not detail facts of the case but rather chronicled the drudgeries of jury service, were also not enough to be held in contempt of court, Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jose L. Fernandez ruled.
Fernandez called Corben "a model juror, but for this."
"I would ask that if you can, you have a big soapbox, you have a lot of followers," Fernandez told Corben. "I would ask that you help us in the judiciary communicate the importance of jury service."
Corben, maker of the Miami-based documentaries Cocaine Cowboys and The U, and five others jurors convicted Williams of robbing a Florida convenience store in October 2011.
Williams, who is facing up to 30 years in prison, has yet to be sentenced. His lawyer had asked for a new trial, saying Corben's social-media use during the trial tainted the conviction.
Last month, the judge ordered Corben to appear in court to explain why he should not be held in contempt of court for sending out Twitter messages during his jury service, despite a court order not to do so.
Corben's messages on Twitter and Facebook mostly lampooned the abundance of Sandra Bullock movies shown in the jury waiting room and lack of working elevators.
Before he was selected as a juror, Corben joked about a judge holding him in contempt, and asking lawyer David O. Markus, a follower on Twitter, to defend him.
Defense lawyer Sara Yousuf, on Tuesday, asked Corben: "Even before jury service, you had an understanding that Tweeting could lead to contempt charges?"
"I just imagined that, from watching Law & Order I guess," Corben replied.
After Corben was selected for the jury, he sent a handful of messages, including a joke about the view from the courthouse of the new Marlins stadium and pointing out that jury instructions did not mention "flasking it," a reference to booze.
Corben never sent messages identifying Williams or details of the case, although one follower wrote back, "We'll make sure you put the bad guy away!"
In the United States, judges have long warned jurors to avoid newspapers and television news coverage to avoid being influenced by publicity. With the rise of social media, judges now warn jurors about using Twitter and Facebook and using search engines to research the case.
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