A major clash is in the works between judges and reporters over Twitter by next week: Can micro-blogging via Twitter pose a threat to a defendant’s right to a fair trial, or is Twitter simply the latest, best way to report the news?
The Associated Press reporting from Chicago Tuesday said the issue could come to a head on April 23 when testimony begins in a Chicago courthouse in the trial of a man accused of killing three members of Oscar winning singer Jennifer Hudson’s family.
The Chicago court earlier banned anyone from tweeting or using any other social networks at the upcoming trial, indicating that it feared tweeting on smartphones during the court proceedings would distract jurors and witnesses.
Reporters and their supporters have been raising a lot of heat over the ban imposed for the April 23 start of the trial, saying that tweeting is essential to provide the public with information as justice is served.
A spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union in Chicago, Ed Yohnka, told AP that tweeting, along with the online social environment are the 21st century version of what reporters have always done – gathering information and reporting the news.
On the other hand, a liaison for the Chicago court maintained that tweeting takes away the dignity of a courtroom, adding that the judge in the trial doesn’t want to turn the proceedings into a circus.
Cook County Judge Charles Burns is considered as relatively fair by other quarters who noted that he has recently allowed reporters to bring cell phones inside the courtroom and allowed them to send e-mails periodically.