Should Defendants Be Able To Tweet During Their Trials?


A Pennsylvania judge last month ruled that reporters covering the public corruption trial of former state Rep. Mike Veon and three aides could send short dispatches via Twitter. The judge’s ruling didn’t address defendants, says the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. Defendant Stephen Keefer, the former director of the Democrats’ information technology department, posted “tweets” about proceedings until his attorney, William Fetterhoff, told his client to stop bcause it could produce “chaos.”

If Keefer made a mistake or said something that could be misconstrued, it could be used as evidence against him. In most cases, individual judges or a court’s administration decide whether to allow such live reports from courtrooms. Allegheny County Common Pleas Court last year banned computers and cell phones from courtrooms. Across the nation, court rulings on the issue are divided. David Hudson of Vanderbilt University’s First Amendment Center, noted that appellate courts haven’t ruled on this, “but I’m sure they will.”

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