MIAMI (CBS4) – South Florida filmmaker Billy Corben’s love for social media may cause a man’s robbery conviction to be thrown out.
An attorney for Florida City resident Angelo Williams says his client didn’t get a fair trial because Corben, who served as the jury foreman on the case, sent Twitter and Facebook messages to his followers about his experiences in the courtroom, according to CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald.
Corben, creator of Miami-based documentaries The U and Cocaine Cowboys, never directly discussed details of the case, rather the fact that he got picked for a jury, the aging courthouse, and the cafeteria food.
Corben tweeted messages like, “Live-tweeting jury duty. Until battery dies. Or a judge holds me in contempt. Whatever comes 1st. Joking, your honor!” and, when referring to the new Marlins Park, “Ironically, the view from the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building is of one of the greatest crimes ever perpetuated on the people of Miami-Dade County.”
But in documents filed with the court, William’s attorney Sara Yousuf noted the comment one follower made: “We’ll make sure you put the bad guy away!”
According to Yousuf, Corben tweeted at least 14 times before and after he was picked for the jury, and posted five times on Facebook, eliciting 58 comments in return.
“He flouted the repeated and clear command of this court by openly inviting input and commentary about Mr. Williams’ trial,” Yousuf wrote in her motion.
That motion will be considered by Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jose Fernandez on Tuesday.
Corben dismissed the legal move, calling it “pretty desperate”
“It was as fair a trial as anyone could get in Miami-Dade County,” Corben said. “I couldn’t have been more respectful to the process and the integrity of the case.”
Prospective jurors have long been warned to avoid newspapers and television news should they be picked to sit on a jury. But with the rise in popularity of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, limiting the information jurors are exposed to has become increasingly difficult.
Corben told the paper that he resisted followers questions about the case, and in the end, even praised the process.
“The experience reaffirmed my faith in the jury system,” Corben said. “We could have had a verdict in 15 minutes. But we sat there for hours to get this right, and went over the jury instructions and charges meticulously. A man’s liberty and freedom were at stake.”
Williams, 24, was on trial for armed robbery with a firearm for allegedly holding up a convenience store in October of 2011. Corben’s jury deliberated for three hours and found Williams guilty of a lesser charge, armed robbery with a weapon.
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