Twittering A Murder Trial

10 05 2008

Ron Sylvester of has spent the week embarking on a journey I haven’t seen before. He has been twittering the jury selection in a murder trial.

This spring, as another big trial loomed, the copy desk said they couldn’t handle another round of live blogging. People are going on vacation. We’re short-staffed. There was no time to sort through my updates each hour.

The trial: Ted Burnett is accused of killing Chelsea Brooks, a 14-year-old girl who was nine months pregnant, in June 2006, during a murder-for-hire.

When jury selection began this week, I decided to start posting updates on Twitter.

Jury selection is usually the most boring part of any trial.

“This is the part they don’t show on TV, it’s so exciting,” prosecutor Kevin O’Connor tells jurors.

Most times, we don’t even cover it. But capital murder trials are different. The juries not only decide whether a defendant is guilty. If they return a conviction on capital murder, the jury also decides whether or not the defendant will receive the death penalty. With life and death at stake, I like to know who is sitting on the jury.

I’ve been watching this with a great deal of fascination. The jury selection process is usually not the most exciting thing I’ve covered in news but watching him tweet how average citizens going through the jury selection and being asked questions regarding the death penalty is revolutionary if you ask me.

Here are a couple of his tweets as he’s reporting in 140 characters.

Two more people, a man and a woman, were excused because they could not consider imposing a death sentence, under any circumstances.

Prosecutor question: “We’re not talking hyptheticals. Could you decide if this man sitting here in the white shirt, should get death?

News is changing. It’s good to see Sylvester breaking news of a hyperlocal case of murder instantly. It’s something we should be watching




One response

21 05 2008
Annoying Autobiographical Pause #1,333 « Newscoma

[…] I am, however, excited about new concepts in delivering news. I mentioned last week I’ve been following a murder trial on twitter. […]

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