An interview with the juror “who tweets”

Think Twitter is worthless chatter? Unless you think $12.6 million dollars is chump change, think again.

On Thursday, a defendant who was ordered to fork over $12.6 million dollars in a civil trial asked for a new trial because one of the jurors allegedly “Twittered” about the proceedings during the trial. Oh, and all of this happened right here in Fayetteville.

Lawyers for the defendant in the trial Stoam Holdings filed a motion for a new Trial on Thursday, alleging that Fayetteville resident Johnathan Powell sent 8 “tweets” about the case during a civil trial that resulted in a 12.6 million dollar judgement in favor of plaintiffs Mark Deihl and William Nystrom, and that the juror researched information about the case and communicated with others outside the jury about the case.

Twitter isn’t new, but the micro-blogging service has become extremely popular recently, and is a buzzword all over the media these days. This case is already making national news.

We got in touch with Johnathan, who granted us an interview if we promised to spell his name right. For the record, it’s Johnathan with a “h”.

Fayetteville Flyer: What have you been listening to lately?
Johnathan Powell: Mostly ABBA and Big & Rich (I kid!). I’m more of a podcast nerd. I listen constantly to things like This Week in Tech and Diggnation. Fayetteville could use some podcasts!

FF: How long did the trial last?
JP: The best I remember, from Jury Selection to leaving, the trial lasted from 9:00am to about 3:45pm on February 26th.

FF: Of tweets in question, these two stand out.

  1. “Oh and nobody buy Stoam. Its bad mojo and they’ll probably cease to Exist, now that their wallet is 12m lighter.”
  2. “So, Johnathan, what did you do today?” Oh, nothing really. I just gave away TWELVE MILLION DOLLARS of somebody else’s money!”

Seems to us these happened after the trial. When did you write those?
JP: I posted those to Twitter after I had already gotten home. It was after the verdict was handed down.

FF: You said this morning “I’m not concerned because I didn’t do anything wrong.” Can you elaborate on that.
JP: The rule was to not talk to anyone about the trial, during the trial. I didn’t talk about the trial, unless you count the quality of Penguin Ed’s french fries. We were allowed to have our cellphones and use them during the breaks. There was no rule against texting, or in my case, Tweeting.

FF: Do you think Stoam Holdings should be granted a new trial?
JP: Not a chance. And even if they were, I’m sure they’d get the exact same outcome. They told us going in that he was guilty. It was just our job to figure out how much he owed. Wright didn’t even bother to show up to his own trial.

FF: When did you find out that Russel Wright was asking for a new trial?
JP: Last night when I was told about the Morning News article.

FF: You said this morning “Back from the courthouse. Judge would not see me without all lawyers involved present.” Is there another meeting with the judge and the attorney’s set?
JP: No. I haven’t talked to any of the lawyers involved. I’m sure they have my number if they need me.

FF: What is being said to you as far as personal legal ramifications this might have on you. Are you going to have to hire a lawyer?
JP: I have been given words of advice from lots of friends and family ranging from, “Don’t sweat it.” to, “Hire a team of lawyers now!” I’m going with the don’t sweat it approach for now. My biggest fear is that the people in charge won’t understand the technology, and that will work against me.

FF: When you wrote the above messages, did you even consider that any of this might happen?
JP: Not at all. I paid very close attention at the trial and followed all of their rules. I even took like twenty pages of notes! I was not trying to shake up the system here. I was just doing what I do every day.

[Update 1: Detailed story on NWA Online]

[Update 2: There is now a Twitter hashtag. Check it: #tweetjuror]

[Update 3: Added “What have you been listening to lately?” to our interview. Can’t believe we forgot that one. Thanks, chancevb.]

[Update 4: Lance Turner’s ALL over it. So’s 4029tv.]