Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lawyer wants new trial for convicted robber because of filmmaker juror’s tweets

Last February, Miami filmmaker Billy Corben was called up for jury duty.

As he waited to be picked to hear a case, the hyperkinetic Corben pursued his favorite daily activity: Sending out never-ending streams of tweets and Facebook posts.

He probably never dreamed those short messages would get him some ink in the daily paper.

But they did.

The Miami Herald's David Ovalle reports that...
Angelo Williams
A Florida City man wants his armed robbery conviction thrown out because his trial’s jury foreman, filmmaker Billy Corben, sent Twitter and Facebook messages to followers about his experiences in court.

Corben, maker of the Miami-based documentaries "Cocaine Cowboys" and "The U," never sent messages about the facts of the case or identified the defendant.

Instead, Corben tweeted that he got picked for a jury, noting that the aging courthouse boasted only one working elevator, the wireless internet service was woeful and the cafeteria lunch special was sautéed bistec with white rice and red beans. He joked about being held in contempt of court for tweeting.

But the lawyer for Angelo Williams, (pictured above left) points out, in a motion, (embedded below) filed in Miami-Dade circuit court, that one follower wrote back on Facebook, “We’ll make sure you put the bad guy away!”

“He flouted the repeated and clear command of this court by openly inviting input and commentary about Mr. Williams’ trial,” defense lawyer Sara Yousuf wrote in her motion.
But Corben - who is in New York attending the Tribeca Film Festival - told the Herald's Ovalle, “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.”

Ovalle reports that "Miami-Dade Circuit Judge Jose Fernandez will consider [Yousuf's] motion Tuesday morning in court."

But, we'll have to wait until Ovalle files his story to learn the judge's decision. He told me late Monday night that he doesn't use Twitter.


Read Ovalle's full report by clicking here.

Read some of Corben's courthouse tweets I posted on this blog last February by clicking here.


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