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The Bible and Twitter

Jan 21, 2014
It may be a stretch to suggest that the Old Testament provides social media guidance, but perhaps this passage from Ecclesiastes (readers may be more familiar with this version) could help. There is indeed, a time to tweet and a time to refrain from tweeting.

A Missouri prosecutor would have been well advised to consider this wisdom recently. Jennifer Joyce, the prosecutor in question, was in charge of prosecuting a nearly twenty-year case involving the rape of a child. A St. Louis child was forcibly raped in 1992. In 2011 DNA evidence indicated that David Polk was the assailant. Joyce took to Twitter to share her thoughts on the trial with the world. According to the court:

“Joyce repeatedly used her Twitter feed to publicly comment on Polk's case during the critical time frame of trial. Days before jury selection began, Joyce tweeted, "David Polk trial next week. DNA hit linked him to 1992 rape of 11 yr old girl. 20 yrs later, victim now same age as prosecutor." During trial, Joyce tweeted, "Watching closing arguments in David Polk `cold case' trial. He's charged with raping 11 yr old girl 20 years ago," and "I have respect for attys who defend child rapists. Our system of justice demands it, but I couldn't do it. No way, no how." Once the case was submitted to the jury, Joyce continued, "Jury now has David Polk case. I hope the victim gets justice, even though 20 years late." Lastly, after the verdict, Joyce posted, "Finally, justice. David Polk guilty of the 1992 rape of 11 yr old girl. DNA cold case. Brave victim now the same age as prosecutor," and "Aside from DNA, David Polk's victim could identify him 20 years later. Couldn't forget the face of the man who terrorized her."

Polk appealed his conviction, arguing that Joyce’s tweets poisoned the jury pool and denied him a fair trial. Fortunately for Joyce, the appellate court ruled that Polk presented no evidence that Joyce’s misconduct affected the trial. None of the jurors followed Joyce on Twitter, and there was no evidence that any jurors saw any of the tweets. Apparently, if a tweet falls in the forest and no one hears it, it does not make a sound.

But even though the conviction survived, it begs the question, why risk it? Joyce may want to take a look at scripture. Or listen to classic rock. The lesson is the same.  

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