Pittsburgh Legal Back Talk

Legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus.

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#bonusgate tweets away.

Posted By Cliff Tuttle | March 23, 2010

Judge Lewis in Harrisburg permitted reporters to use Twitter to send reports from the Bonusgate trial of former PA House Whip Mike Veon, et al.  The jury had been deliberating since last week.  The dismissal of a juror late last week and the seating of an alternate required the jury to start again.

Yet, despite the setback, early this evening, March 22, word came down that the jury had reached a verdict.  The assembled press corps began reporting in 140 character messages as the jurors arrived.

As the jury forman began to read the verdicts, Twitter messages from the courtroom piled up. Veon guilty on five, now ten, now half, finally 14 0f 59.  Now to Cott. And so on. Soon readers started retweeting the courtroom reports to their followers. A cacophony of latest numbers, old reports (old is over 30 seconds), not so old reports, kept coming, but strangely out of chronology. Then the Twitterers began to tally the score.  Meanwhile, old retweets kept flooding in. Then they started to discuss the significance of it all.  Veon not guilty on the basketball dinners. At least one defense counsel was in the flock, declaring loudly that the mixed verdict was a victory for his client, sort of.

I had hoped to give readers a sample of these weird messages as they appeared, but there were just too many.  When I tried to scroll to the beginning — too many pages to count — my web browser repeatedly gave up. And so did I.

Meanwhile, the Post Gazette somehow pulled together a website report on the verdicts and announced to the Twitter crowd that it would be ready soon. Everybody’s on steroids. Now they will run off to file their stories or set up for the eleven o’clock news.

Wow!  What an exciting night! What a hoot!

Chances are, though, that most judges who hear about this incident will follow the lead of Westmoreland County and permanently ban tweeting from their courtrooms, especially during the solemn moments when the jury announces the verdict.

If we never again see such a tweetfest in court during the jury verdict, we saw it tonight.



CLIFF TUTTLE has been a Pennsylvania lawyer for over 45 years and (inter alia) is a real estate litigator and legal writer. The posts in this blog are intended to provide general information about legal topics of interest to lawyers and consumers with a Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania focus. However, this information does not constitute legal advice and there is no lawyer-client relationship created when you read this blog. You are encouraged to leave comments but be aware that posted comments can be read by others. If you wish to contact me in privacy, please use the Contact Form located immediately below this message. I will reply promptly and in strict confidence.

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