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Juror tweets could force retrial

'Twit' doesn't quite cover it

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A juror who published Twitter messages during the course of a trial has undermined the trial process and its verdict, lawyers have claimed while launching an appeal. The US juror told reporters he did not think posting the messages was wrong.

An appeal has been lodged in an Arkansas court against a $12.6 million ruling against a building materials firm. Lawyers for the firm have said that the messages, or 'tweets', revealed the juror's bias.

Twitter is a system which lets users post status updates, known as tweets, which are received by the people who 'follow' them.

Russell Wright and his company made 'stoam', a new material that it claimed was as strong as steel but insulated like foam. Two investors sought their money back, describing the company as "nothing more than a Ponzi scheme" such as that run in the financial world by Bernard Madoff.

"Nobody buy Stoam. Its bad mojo and they'll probably cease to Exist, now that their wallet is 12m lighter," said one of juror Johnathan Powell's messages, according to the Associated Press.

Another read: "I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else's money."

Wright's appeal seeks a new trial, claiming Powell was biased. He "was predisposed toward giving a verdict that would impress his audience", said Wright's application, the AP said.

"Juror Jonathan's public statements show us he that arrived at jury duty with the desire to get on the jury and 'rock' the jury. He researched this topic in advance. He arrived as a self described 'angry' man," the motion said, according to a local newspaper.

"Well, I'm off to see a judge. Hope they don't lock me under the jail, and forget about me for four days," Powell said from his Twitter account as the story broke. "Back from the courthouse. Judge would not see me without all lawyers involved present," he later wrote.

Powell told local paper The Morning News that he had not researched the case beforehand and discussed it with people who were not jurors, as the appeal suggests.

"I didn't do that," Powell told the Arkansas Morning News. "I'd be in hiding if I thought I did something wrong. I didn't."

Copyright © 2009, OUT-LAW.com

OUT-LAW.COM is part of international law firm Pinsent Masons.

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