Prosecutor's Twitter Posts Draw Court's Concern
ST. LOUIS (AP) — A Missouri appeals court has expressed concern that St. Louis city's top prosecutor posted case details on Twitter during the trial of a rape suspect, but has allowed the conviction to stand.
A three-judge panel of the Eastern District Missouri Court of Appeals rejected an appeal in the case of David Polk, despite the concerns over the tweets by St. Louis Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce.
Polk was convicted at a June 2012 trial of forcible rape and sodomy in an attack on an 11-year-old girl 20 years earlier. DNA evidence linked him to the crime. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison. Joyce tweeted some details of the case during the trial.
The judges did not weigh in on whether Joyce's comments before and during the trial were improper as Polk's attorneys claimed. But the ruling expressed concern that use of tweets "immediately before and during trial greatly magnifies the risk that a jury will be tainted."
Joyce issued a statement saying the ruling recognized that "the basic facts underlying the tweets are part of the public record." She said her last five tweets came after jurors had been warned away from news and social media.
"I am confident that continued use of social media by the Circuit Attorney's Office will balance the competing rights of all citizens," she wrote.
The Missouri Public Defender's office called the tweets "prosecutorial misconduct."
Joyce is a frequent user of Twitter. St. Louis' top public defender, Mary Fox, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that her office had complained about Joyce's tweets in other court motions.
"If the behavior is not going to stop, then perhaps the next step is a bar complaint — either by an attorney or by a defendant," Fox said.