It seems these days that everyone has a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
Children and their grandparents alike seem to be “tweeting” a Twitter and posting on Facebook.
Facebook users are also becoming less guarded with the information they post on their pages. You can find out just about anything about a person from their Facebook page-everything from political views to what they ate for dinner. Facebook and Twitter users are also more likely to post opinions on topics they feel strongly about.
During a part of jury selection called voir dire, lawyers ask jurors questions to try and gauge biases and to understand the type of person a juror is – all in the pursuit of a fair jury for their respective clients. Sometimes attorneys fail to ask just the right question or to ask it in a way that causes the juror to provide important information about their opinions on a given topic. The use of social media investigation has provided lawyers and their clients with new information allowing more insight into juror bias and personality than the need to perfectly formulate just the right question.
According to a July 2011 ABA Journal article, Casey Anthony’s defense team found social media helpful in formulating their defense strategy. Anthony’s defense counsel also used social media during jury selection.
A consultant for the Casey Anthony team analyzed more than 40,000 opinions on social media sites and blogs, including Facebook and Twitter. Jose Baez, Anthony’s lead attorney, took these opinions into account when determining how the defense would proceed in the case.
“I’ve spent 32 years listening to people’s reactions to trial stimulus, but it’s never been anything like this,” said Amy Singer, the Fort Lauderdale-based consultant for the Casey Anthony trial. “This whole case was driven by social media. We really tapped into people’s minds and I think it’s a tool that should be used by defense and prosecution.”
**Megan O’Connor is a law student at Florida State University. We have been fortunate to have her working at our firm as a summer assistant.**