Viewpoint – Social media message blurs content of trial

A Facebook posting about a pending case by 2nd Judicial District Judge Samuel Winder illustrates why the court system is right to be concerned about the use of social media by those involved in justice.Winder recently posted comments about a murder trial at which he was presiding. After the jury convicted the defendant, he posted a message that said "justice was served."Winder still has to sentence the defendant, so the case is not over.

And although the defendant's attorney says he believes Winder's comments referred to the judicial process itself — and he has no problem with Winder sentencing his client — others might find the posting troublesome. Supreme Court rules prohibit a judge from making any statements that "might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome or impair the fairness of a matter pending or impending in any court.

"Winder said he took the post down when it was brought to his attention that it could be taken in more than one way.Since the explosion in popularity of social media, posts, tweets and other communications — mostly by jurors — have led to warnings, disqualifications and mistrials. It doesn't help to have a judge blurring the line about acceptable conversation during a trial.

Gov. Susana Martinez appointed Winder, a Republican, Southern Ute Tribe member and former federal prosecutor, in October 2011 to a vacancy on the bench after he made the Judicial Selection Commission short list. He is running to retain his seat in the Nov. 6 election.Winder says his post "was only meant to convey that when a jury of 12 randomly selected persons reach a verdict, it's an expression of justice." While that may be the case, discussions about pending cases should be off the social media docket.

—Albuquerque Journal

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