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The Casey Anthony Trial: Crowd-Sourcing Justice

By BKV in BKV News on July 8th, 2011

Welcome to the age of crowd-sourcing justice

Who isn’t talking about the Casey Anthony trial?  It’s the chatter being heard continuously throughout ABC, FOX, NBC and CNN. According to Adweek, at the time of the verdict on Tuesday, there were 325,283 Twitter posts about the Casey Anthony trial. Facebook posts came in at roughly ten per second.You don’t have to go deep on the web to see a blog post, tweet, or Facebook status commenting on what some are calling the “first major murder trial of the social media age.” There has been a constant buzz about the trial on social media sites since the news about the young mother, whom allegedly murdered her daughter shocked the nation more than three years ago.                                                 

With the verdict being delivered this week, the social media maelstrom surrounding this controversial trial only gathered more force and online chatter. Many eagerly awaited the announcement of the verdict on Tuesday, sitting watchfully at their computers and on their smart phones for the much-anticipated revelation of Casey Anthony’s fate. As soon as the jury deliberated and delivered their verdict, which found Casey Anthony not guilty of murder and child abuse charges, millions took to Twitter and other social media sites to deliver their own verdicts.The Top 10 Trending Topics on Twitter were quickly focused on the trial as people discussed the outcome.                                               

How was the Casey Anthony trial different from other high profile cases, such as the infamous O.J. Simpson trial of the 1990s? While the highly televised trial of O.J. was also viewed by millions, there was not the same social infrastructure in place for mass amounts of people to voice their opinions all in one place. For the most part, viewers of the O.J. trial watched the proceedings from home and then formed their own opinions and conclusions privately. In the case of Casey Anthony, she not only had the eyes of the world on her via television, but millions of people also took to social media to publicly judge her. Throughout the duration of the trial and particularly with the announcement of Tuesday’s verdict, social media allowed users to be a judge, juror and to some extent, an executioner in their own right.

The prevalence of social media in this case was largely unprecedented, and social media’s role in the judicial system is likely to grow as the number of techno-savvy people with access to smart phones increases.

What will the implications be for our legal system with this influx of opinions and social condemnations? There is already a hard task in finding a viable jury pool that has not been tampered with by media proceedings prior to trial, which inadvertently causes some cases to be relocated to ensure fairness in the proceedings. With social media, finding an unbiased jury becomes even harder as news of high profile cases spreads like wildfire throughout the world. Even once a jury is selected, preventing them from being swayed by the flood of opinions conveyed via social media is another task altogether, potentially resulting in jury sequestration.

Social media is changing many facets of our lives and the judicial system is no exception. Much of the notoriety of Casey Anthony’s case was due to the rampant discussion of the case on social media sites. The jury’s verdict may be in, but Casey’s innocence is still being weighed by the social media jurors.