“The social media trial of the century…”

“Trial by Twitter…”

These are two ways that Time magazine referred to the Casey Anthony trial in recent months. I’m sure everyone is on Casey Anthony overload right now, and we’re not going to rehash the verdict or talk trial details. However, as one who followed this case, I have found the social media aspect of it quite fascinating.

I vividly recall watching the OJ trial on TV and discussing it with friends, family, and coworkers. That was before social media. The Casey Anthony trial allowed the public to get involved (and emotionally invested) on an entirely new level.

People had the opportunity to “ingest” the trial as it happened on many levels – they could easily watch the trial live on TV or online while engaging in forums dedicated to this case and talk with friends & family on Facebook and Twitter. Couldn’t watch the trial live? No problem – several news reporters had live Twitter feeds from the courthouse – a simple search for “Casey Anthony trial” would give you enough updates and information as it happened to keep you busy for months.

And what happened during “verdict watch”? Unlike the OJ trial, where everyone just had to wait and watch by their radios or TV’s to find out when a verdict was reached, thousands of people were able to subscribe to one of the many Florida news stations to receive a text message as soon as verdict was reached (sadly, I will admit that I was one of them). There was a “Casey Anthony Update” iPhone app, and I’m sure others evolved over the course of the trial.

The public outcry after the verdict was read was quite similar to the response from OJ’s verdict – the vast majority of the public feels she got away with murder – the public response was almost more cohesive because of social media. People flocked to Facebook and message boards, sharing their thoughts and displeasure with the final outcome. People bonded on newly created Facebook pages (such as the “I hate Casey Anthony” Facebook page, and others showed their support to the prosecuting attorneys and Judge Perry by creating Facebook fan pages dedicated to them.

After the trial, we learned about another aspect of the trial that to me, as someone deep in the social media world, found fascinating:  social media actually played a part in assisting the defense team during the trial

Amy Singer owns the company Trial Consultants, Inc. and recently did an interview discussing her role in the Casey Anthony trial. You can read the article at this link. Essentially, her team was responsible for monitoring social media to get a general consensus on different aspects of the trial. This information was sent to the defense team, who was able to take this information and change their questioning or plan of attack as the trial progressed.

For example, Singer’s group would throw out little “trial balloons” on various sites to gauge the response. When mentioning Casey’s father, George Anthony, they received responses that they were able to share with the defense to gauge their strategy, Singer says:

What blew my mind was that after George’s mistress testified, pro-prosecution bloggers said ‘Poor George, he’s not on trial.’ So we knew not to harp on George, because the more you harp on him, the more [the real jurors who may be leaning toward prosecution] were going to defend him.”

In relation to Casey’s mother, Cindy Anthony, Singer uncovered the overall sentiment of her testimony as it related to her allegedly lied on the stand about her search for chloroform:

“For example, when Cindy (Casey’s mother) testified [that] she did a [Internet] search for chloroform, everybody hated her. But others said this was a mother protecting her child. So we knew how to play that. That’s exactly what Jose said in his closing: ‘She’s protecting her child’.”

No matter how you feel about the outcome, the social media aspect of the trial has been interesting and far more involved than one might expect. What does this mean for Casey? While she may realize that she’s not exactly the most liked person in the country right now, she can easily run a quick search online once she’s released and see exactly what people think about her, thanks to social media. This case definitely opens doors for future trials in that social media can assist lawyers in a manner that has never been available before social media evolved.

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