Trial and Error and Mistrial

Trial and Error and Mistrial

Or, “Do as I Say and Not as I Do.” A Texas judge who instructed jurors in a high-profile case to refrain from discussing the case with “anyone” was reprimanded by a state panel for posting Facebook updates about the very trial she was presiding over.

Courtesy of Ars Technica comes the news of Michelle Slaughter, a Galveston County judge whose Facebook posts led to her removal from a high-profile child abuse case and its mistrial.

According to Ars, her instructions to the jury were “no texting, emailing, talking person to person or on the phone or on Facebook. Any of that is forbidden.” She then ended day one of the trial with her own Facebook post, discussing evidence that hadn’t been introduced yet.

“After we finished Day 1 of the case called the ‘Boy in the Box’ case, trustees from the jail came in and assembled the actual 6×8 ‘box’ inside the courtroom!”

Following her recusal from the case, she posted:

“We finished up sentencing today with a very challenging defendant.

In the panel’s decision, it noted these and other posts, including one on another case.

“Judges have a duty to decide every case fairly and impartially. … Judge Slaughter’s conduct in the case was clearly inconsistent with the proper performance of her duties and cast public discredit upon the judiciary or administration of justice in light of the considerable negative media attention given the case and her posting.”

The panel ordered Judge Slaughter to take a four-hour class for on ethics and social media.

The judge will appeal the ruling, according to Ars, stating to the Houston Chronicle, “Everything I posted was publicly available information.”

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