Facebook is the right place to share posts about your life or links to news and other articles you find interesting. But, it's not the appropriate spot for judges to post opinions about trials they are presiding over. Besides the obvious issues of a judge offering opinions during the trial, doing so can also result in a mistrial. That happened recently in the infamous "Boy in the Box" case in Texas.
David Wieseckel is on trial for allegedly punishing his 9-year-old son by locking him in a 6' x 8' wood box. Following the first day of testimony in the trial, Galveston County Judge Michelle Slaughter created the following post on Facebook:
Opening statements this morning at 9:30 am in the trial called by the press "the boy in the box" case.
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"x8' [measurements are sic]"box" inside the courtroom!
This is the case currently in the 405th!
The post seems to directly contradict rules that Judge Slaughter gave to the jury that stated that neither the judge nor jury could talk about evidence with others in person, over the phone, email or social media.
The State Commission on Judicial Conduct has ordered Judge Slaughter to attend four hours of social media training to show her how to use social media appropriately. The Commission also issued a public admonition detailing Slaughter's misconduct. The judge was also removed from the case, which caused a mistrial.
Officials said that at the time she made the posts about the box, it hadn't yet been admitted into evidence at trial, meaning that Slaughter had posted about the same type of "secret evidence" she had warned jurors not to investigate outside of court.
Judge Slaughter has stated that she did nothing wrong and claims that her post only included information that was already publicly available.