Social Media’s Role in the Casey Anthony Case

The Casey Anthony trial was the first high-profile murder case to take place in the social media realm. The blogosphere went haywire; tweets and posts around the country were trending anything related to Casey Anthony. We saw the posts, even sent out a few tweets about the topic ourselves, but what did the defense think about all of the social media action? Some argue that they made their case based on it.

Prior to the trial, Amy Singer was hired by the defense (pro-bono) to help with the jury selection process and consultation during the trial. According to an article from Law.com, Singer was quoted saying that “the whole trial was social-media driven.”

Singer and her team searched thousands of blogs and posts before and during the trial to find out “what was annoying people about Anthony”. They wanted to hear the important negative comments so the defense could address the issues in their arguments.

For example, as soon as the bloggers and tweeters developed an opinion about George Anthony, Singer encouraged the defense to dig more information up and put him in the spotlight. The thought here was that if the public had such an agreed consensus towards certain evidence or topics, the jury may share the same thoughts.

The jury selection was very critical in this case, and according to some the trial was over after the jury was selected. The defense’s ideal juror was “bright and intelligent” and if they were talking about Casey Anthony, they were talking about the facts; i.e mentioning Caylee’s skull being found in a field as opposed to Casey’s alleged party girl persona.

Needless to say, all the posts, blogs and tweets involving anything to do with Casey Anthony were analyzed by the defense and taken into account for the development of the case. And for what it’s worth, the defense team did a proficient job using that information to help back the case.

Is social media another expertise that should be developed by criminal defense attorneys? Florida A&M professor Shiv Persaud thinks so.

“It definitely might become a part of my curriculum in trial practice. We could benefit from a new type of tool we didn’t have before.” 

It couldn’t hurt. Time is an obvious issue, but when searching for a criminal lawyer, check Facebook and Twitter. If they have a presence, that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Facebook & Divorce: Are they related?

So we’ve talked about Facebook before, how Sheriff’s offices utilize it to post pictures/videos of open cases, how some Attorney’s use Facebook in the juror selection process and now, how Facebook is cited in 90% of divorce cases.

According to a St. Petersburg 10 News article, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers discovered that Facebook is involved in one in five divorce cases. Whether it is from parents allowing illegal activities like underage drinking, or if it is a picture a spouse out on the town, lawyers are seeing more and more encounters with Facebook.

With all this action coming from Facebook, Attorney’s have no choice but to become a master at internet photo searches. A simple Google image search can result in pictures that some are unaware are even out on the internet. Untagged pictures or pictures from a deactivated Facebook account can still be found. Divorce Attorney Carin Constantine was interviewed by the St. Petersburg 10 news team and commented,

“Those pictures are still accessible by us, and we can still print them and we can still use them as evidence in your divorce case.”

Privacy settings are controlled by the individual, but the default settings that Facebook sets you up with are not ideal. The best advice would be to go into those settings and make it so only those people who you want to see your personal information/pictures can. For the future, ask friends and family not to tag you in any pictures if you want to avoid any controversy.

Facebook Aids to Fighting Crime

Facebook is everywhere these days and is not just being used as a personal way to stay connected to friends. Sheriff’s offices around the country have been utilizing Facebook as another way to get information out to the public, and for the public to relay information back to Crime Stoppers.

On Monday morning, the Polk County Sheriff’s office posted on Facebook a video of a man stealing at 75 year old woman’s wallet in a local laundromat. Two hours later an anonymous source contacted Crime Stoppers and reported who the man was and where he worked. Sure enough, it was the right suspect and the man was charged with petty theft. Bay News 9 covered the story and that video can be found on their website.

Although this was a smaller crime, think about the power that Facebook and social networking has. Not only do crimes get solved thanks to fan pages, but since Facebook is so accessible, everyday citizens can act as crime stopping heroes.

Polk County Sheriff’s office updates the page daily and have said that this is not the first crime that Facebook fans have helped them solve. They send all press releases and Crime Stopper bulletins to Facebook where they have over 7,000 fans.

Other Sheriff’s offices also have Facebook pages including Hillsborough County. The Florida Fish and Wildlife commission stated that they made over 100 arrests through Facebook.

If you are looking for Legal advice, Tampa Criminal Defense Lawyer Lori D. Palmieri also has a presence on Facebook.

Does Your Criminal Defense Attorney Know How to Use Facebook?

If not, you may be at a disadvantage, claims a recent post on Forbes.com by Kashmir Hill entitled Make Sure Your Lawyer Knows How To Use Facebook.

Ms. Hill starts the post with a statement that basically says if your attorney doesn’t have an iPad…run! Referencing articles in the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, she explores the evolving practice of examining the online profiles of potential jurors during jury selection, looking for indications as to how they might “contribute” to the jury’s decision, should they be selected.

Walking through a series of five examples, Ms. Hill paints a picture of jury selection in the age of Google and Facebook. And while it’s unclear as to how this evolving practice will stand up over the long term, at least for now, it has been upheld by an appellate court in New Jersey.

Definitely take a look at Ms. Hill’s post (the examples are interesting, to say the least!), and be sure to do your homework when you’re looking for a Tampa criminal defense lawyer to represent you in federal criminal matters, state criminal matters, drug charges, or DUI.

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Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rated

FL Bar Board Certified

Former Prosecutor