Mistrial declared after reporter tweets juror’s photo
TOPEKA, Kan. — A Kansas judge declared a mistrial in a murder trial yesterday after a newspaper reporter tweeted a photo that included the grainy profile of a juror.
The Shawnee County district attorney’s office said it planned to reschedule Austin Tabor’s trial for June or July after the abrupt halt to proceedings in Topeka one day after attorneys presented opening statements.
“One of the photos apparently showed one or more of the jurors,” said Lee McGowan, spokesman for the district attorney’s office. “It was brought to the court’s attention and ultimately a mistrial was declared.”
The Topeka Capital-Journal reports Tabor, 20, is accused of shooting and killing Matthew Mitchell, 20, near Topeka West High School in 2010.
McGowan said the judge had agreed to allow camera phones in the courtroom, but said no photos were to be taken of jurors. That corresponds with rules established by the Kansas Supreme Court for cameras in courtrooms, including that individual jurors are not to be photographed.
“In courtrooms where photography is impossible without including the jury as part of the unavoidable background, the photography is permitted, but close-ups which identify individual jurors are not permitted,” the court has said.
The picture, taken and tweeted by reporter Ann Marie Bush, includes the profile of a juror set against a brightly lit window.
Tomari Quinn, managing editor of the Capital-Journal, responded to comments on the newspaper’s website by saying the photo was a mistake and the “reporter is miserable about it.”
“The juror was seated next to a window and, on the reporter’s smartphone, wasn’t seen against the incoming light,” Quinn wrote.
Publisher Gregg Ireland said the reporter was aware of the rules.
“The Capital-Journal regrets the error and loss of the court’s time,” he said. “We will use this as a training opportunity for our staff members as they strive to bring information to our readers in digital and print media.”
A hearing to reschedule the trial was set for today.