Recent Broward Law Blog Features

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Astor Trial Begins With Judicial Warning About 'Twittering'

There will be no Twittering in the courtroom. No 'google' mistrial here.

On the heels of a NY Times featuring revealing a stunning number of jurors using the Internet during a trial here in South Florida, a jury being seated in New York City is being told to stay away from their Blackberrys.

It is the blockbuster trial of famed philanthropist Brooke Astor's son which opened Monday. A judge told 200 potential jurors to put away their BlackBerrys.

"I understand there is a temptation to review [news] stories," Supreme Court Justice Kirke Bartley said as he ordered panel members to stay away from their computers. "You are not to conduct research...particularly on the Internet."

"Blogging, BlackBerrys, whatever," are prohibited, he said in the nearly 10-minute lecture.

"There have been reports from all over about jurors Twittering and blogging," said Ken Warner, a lawyer for Astor's son, Anthony Marshall, who is charged with looting his mother's fortune.

Warner was referring to the popular instant social-networking Web site Twitter. With easy access to the Internet, jurors around the country are increasingly turning to the medium to satisfy their curiosity about a case they are sitting on - and that is resulting in costly mistrials.

Marshall, 84, and once-disbarred lawyer Francis Morrissey, 66, are charged with looting the Alzheimer-stricken Astor's estate by coercing her to update her will. Marshall arrived in court clutching a cane and his wife's hand.

Of 200 original prospective jurors, 30 people who said they could serve for as long as three months - the trial could last that long - were kept for further questioning.

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