The state court system is using the upcoming Jerry Sandusky trial to set a new rule for how reporters utilize Twitter from the courtroom. The move comes ahead of Tuesday's jury selection and the child sex abuse trial of the former Penn State defensive coordinator.
Reporters covering jury selection and the trial can tweet from the courtroom, as long as they do not record anything word-for-word. Pennsylvania court system spokesman Jim Koval said the rule is intended to comply with court rules that ban such verbatim transmissions.
"This would not stop a reporter from afterwards sending out quotes. That wouldn't be immediate verbatim transmission. Or if it were important to a reporter, that reporter could actually leave the courtroom in the courthouse and send that transmission from outside," Koval said.
This is the first time Pennsylvania courts have attempted to put Twitter feeds in line with existing court rules without an outright ban. As for concerns that the rule will force reporters to synthesize testimony, instead of letting people's statements speak for themselves, Koval said it is a risk the media will have to take to report in real time.
"The alternative is to disallow the tweeting and let them take notes on their laptops and such and then file their stories at breaks and after session," Koval said.
Koval added that he is not sure if this rule will set a precedent for cases in the state courts going forward. A court rules committee has proposed a ban on tweeting from courtrooms in the past, and recently submitted another confidential rules proposal.
"Whatever they send is in the hands of the Supreme Court. The Court could do a number of things. It could adopt that rule as written, it could modify that rule, or it could reject that rule and even devise its own rule," Koval said.