Last week I was on trial — at three days it was the shortest one I ever had — and my trial prep included this: Deleting any Twitter messages that were political. My first post on Twitter was thee years ago, January 29, 2009. Since then I have made about 800+ posts.
So the few tweets on politics that I’ve made were taken down. None were overboard on anything — regular readers know that ad hominem attack isn’t exactly the way I write — but why take the chance?
The problem is that no matter how many times a juror is told to avoid looking up the people involved, some folks can’t help themselves. They might look up the lawyer. They might see the Twitter stream.
Despite what people think of New York as a bastion of liberalism, we have plenty of conservatives. Our recent past had Rudy Giuliani as NYC mayor and George Pataki as Governor. It doesn’t really matter if you are on the left or right of the political aisle, it is guarnateed that out of a jury pool some will have differing opinions.
And if you are the party with the burden of proof in a personal injury case (me) then you can’t afford to piss anyone off. This is particularly true in a presidential election year when politics dominates the news more so than at other times.
The same problem exists for web sites, of course. I’ve always cognizant of this (see, I Hate My Website from 2009) and try to govern myself accordingly. While there are some folks who take down their websites and replace them when on trial (or so I have heard) that isn’t something I’ve ever done.
Since no one generally cares about any tweet that is more than 10 nanoseconds old, this isn’t really an issue. But one person might care, that being the juror. So down they come.
Of course, the opposite might be true for criminal defense lawyers. With the burden on the prosecution, they need only convince that one lonely holdout. They may have a completely different view of keeping contentious political commentary up in place.