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Reporter's twitter photo results in mistrial in Kansas murder case

This photograph, taken by reporter Ann Bush and posted to Twitter, caused a judge to declare a mistrial in a Topeka murder trial
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(CBS) TOPEKA, Kan. - A Kansas judge declared a mistrial in a murder trial Wednesday after a newspaper reporter tweeted a photo that included the grainy profile of a juror.

The Shawnee County district attorney's office said it plans to reschedule 20-year-old Austin Tabor's trial for June or July after the halt to proceedings in Topeka.

The mistrial ruling came just 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."

McGowan said the judge had agreed to allow camera phones in the courtroom, but said no photos were to be taken of jurors.

According to Kansas Supreme Court rules, "Individual jurors shall not 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 prohibited."

The picture, taken and tweeted by reporter Ann Marie Bush, includes the profile of a juror set against a brightly lit window.

Topeka Capital-Journal managing editor Tomari Quinn 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.

"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."

According to the Capital-Journal, Tabor is accused of fatally shooting Matthew Mitchell, 20, near Topeka West High School in 2010.

A hearing to reschedule the trial is set for Thursday.

  • Crimesider Staff

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