A US judge yesterday ordered a retrial of a schoolteacher found guilty of computer porn charges after a sustained campaign by internet specialists proclaiming her innocence.
Julie Amero, 40, was convicted in January of being responsible for a series of sex advertisements that popped up on a classroom computer and were seen by pupils, in a case that has caught nationwide attention and raised important questions about content control on computers.
The prosecution at the trial in Connecticut had claimed she must have clicked on the websites for the adverts to begin appearing. But after the trial, 28 computer science academics in the state sought to prove that the rapid-fire sequence of pop-up sex advertisements could have appeared automatically.
Sympathetic campaigners argue such pop-ups are one of the scourges of the internet and claim she is the victim of a witchhunt.
Ms Amero appeared in court yesterday for sentencing on charges that carry a 40-year jail sentence. But Judge Hillary Strackbein told the court in New London that she was ordering a retrial.
The computer was sent to a state laboratory after the trial, and Judge Strackbein said the lab report might contradict evidence presented by the state computer expert, a police detective. "The jury may have relied, at least in part, on that faulty information," she said.
In the face of the nationwide campaign, the prosecution service backed off and did not oppose the defence motion for retrial.