The trial of James Holmes, accused of mass murder in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shootings, is now entering it’s sixth week. The trial took a bizzarre turn last week, however, when Arapahoe District Attorney George Brauchler was reprimanded for tweeting during the trial.
Brauchler is an active Twitter user who, until recently, avoided tweeting during the trial. However, last Thursday, that changed. While the defense was cross-examining a mental health expert, Brauchler tweeted: “I agree on the video. I hope the jury thinks so, too.” Brauchler was referencing 22 hours of interviews recorded by Dr. William Reid, who had interviewed James Holmes. The next day, defense attorney Tamara Brady told the judge about the tweet, and the issue was brought up in open court. Said Brady:
“If the prosecution is seeking the execution of a man, perhaps the district attorney should pay attention to the cross-examination of a mental health expert rather than chatting on social media.”
Judge Carlos Samour agreed and ordered the attorneys not to tweet during court. “If you’re bored and don’t want to pay attention to the proceedings, then you can leave.” He also added that nothing was so important that the lawyers needed to send a text or email or tweet from the courtroom.
Brauchler apologized for the tweet and said he thought he was responding to a text, noting that he had deleted the tweet as soon as he realized what he had done. Said the District Attorney, “It’s an embarrassing mistake, but one I think I corrected quickly.”
As I’ve written about before, there is a serious danger when it comes to the legal profession and tweeting. Strict ethical guidelines must be adhered to, and tweeting during the trial is definitely a bad idea. This tweet may or may not have been an accident, but regardless, attorneys need to be very aware of what they are doing on social media, what they are saying, and when they are saying it.
That, and for crying out loud, this isn’t some unimportant office meeting: Look like you are paying attention. In fact, actually pay attention. Lives and justice are at stake.