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Allen Stanford Chirps against Tweets: Wants New Trial
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Allen Stanford of the $7 billion Ponzi scheme fame has demanded a new trial ostensibly on the trounds that the media use of Twitter in the courtroom and insufficient time to prepare his defense had led to an unfair trial and justice not being served.

Stanford was convicted on March 6 by a jury on 13 out of 14 counts related to the sale of bogus deposit certificates from his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank Ltd. Stanford’s petition to the U.S. District Court in Houston on Tuesday claims deprivation of Sixth Amendment rights among other issues.

The facts of the petition includes that Stanford had changed at least a dozen lawyers following his 2009 arrest due to paucity of funds, and ultimately the court had to declare him indigent and allowed his defense funded with public money. The last lawyer on the scene, as well as others, had little time allotted to them to prepare the defense as claimed.

  
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The petition also claimed that the trial was turned into a ‘media circus’ creating an environment prejudicial to the defendant even before the trial began. Allegedly, the discrimination was boosted by the District Judge David Hittner allowing reporters to send Twitter messages from the courtroom to create a to-the-moment coverage of the trial.

The petition (we must mention that this ground seems quite fair) mentions, “This broadcasting is likely to have reached a juror, since Twitter does not require active pursuit of information, but rather, if a friend of the juror’s was following the ‘Stanford trial,’ the tweets might automatically show up on a juror’s Twitter account.” Such a possibility and subsequent influence of media-generated bias could apply to any trial given the circumstances and is a question proper to be addressed by the courts.

We would like to know, regardless of the locus standi of Allen Stanford, the court’s interpretation of the issue if an innocent had been on the docks. Live tweets to media channels from courtrooms can be a game-changer.

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The question, as stated by Christine Corcos, a professor of law at the Louisiana State University told Reuters is important because “It would be disruptive to the business of the court if such messages were making it to the jury … That’s why more and more federal judges are saying reporters cannot bring in Blackberries or other devices.”

As things stand now, Stanford is scheduled for sentencing on June 14 and could never see the light of the day again. The jury in the trial had also suggested federal authorities try to lay claims to the $330 million frozen funds stashed by Stanford in 29 foreign bank accounts.



The case is U.S. v. Stanford, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas, No. 09-cr-00342.



 

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