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Filmmaker Off The Hook For Tweeting During Trial

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Miami filmmaker Billy Corben appeared before Judge Jose Fernandez Wednesday morning, June 13, 2012.  (Source: Walter Michot / Miami Herald Staff)

Miami filmmaker Billy Corben appeared before Judge Jose Fernandez Wednesday morning, June 13, 2012. (Source: Walter Michot / Miami Herald Staff)

Jasmine-Kripalini-600x450 Jasmine Kripalani
Jasmine Kripalani is a court producer for CBS4. Prior to joining...
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MIAMI (CBS4) –A Miami-Dade Judge told famed filmmaker Billy Corben Wednesday morning that he “did violate my court order” for using social media while serving as a juror. The judge, however, stopped short of holding him in contempt of court for sending out messages to his followers on Twitter and Facebook saying Corben was a “model juror but for this.”

The defense attorney for Angelo Williams, of Florida City, argued that her client did not get a fair trial because Corben sent out messages during the trial.

On Wednesday, the judge disagreed and denied the defenses’ motion asking for a mistrial.

Williams, 24, was on trial for armed robbery with a firearm for allegedly holding up a convenience store in October of 2011. Corben who served as the jury foreperson in late February deliberated for three hours and found Williams guilty of a lesser charge, armed robbery with a weapon. Williams will be sentenced later this month.

Corben’s attorney argued that the messages that were mailed out were mostly about the mundane aspects of jury duty – including the cafeteria food and referring to the new Marlins Park, which can be seen from the Richard E. Gerstein Justice Building as “one of the greatest crimes ever perpetuated on the people of Miami-Dade County.”

Corben also quipped about the Sandra Bullock movies that are played in the jury waiting room.

Creator of Miami-based documentaries The U and Cocaine Cowboys, Corben never directly discussed details of the case.

Corben, however, tweeted messages like, “Live-tweeting jury duty. Until battery dies. Or a judge holds me in contempt. Whatever comes 1st. Joking, your honor!”

William’s attorney Sara Yousuf noted the comment one follower made: “We’ll make sure you put the bad guy away!”

Corben’s defense attorney David Markus appeared before Judge Jose Fernandez and first apologized “for even being here” and stressed that Corben “took the process seriously and did not tweet about the facts.”

Judge Fernandez said, “you did not violate it to the extent of contempt of court. I would ask that you help us in the judiciary by stressing the importance of showing up [to jury duty] and taking it seriously.”

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.

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.

(TM and © Copyright 2012 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2010 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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