Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Explosion of Social Media is Influencing the Outcome of Our Criminal Trials

Los Angeles, CA—I have been telling anyone who’d listen that Social Media is a huge game changer in the criminal justice system.

The lawyers especially those older warhorses that are not so computer savvy are incredibly ignorant. They don’t see the major influence that bloggers, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube has on prosecutors, judges and jurors.

In the real world judges controlling the reading and television habits was a losing battle. Jurors lie about what and when they read especially when they are admonished. Human nature requires people touch the wall when they see the wet paint sign.

The Internet is a powerful magnet that has put millions of us in front of computer screens. We get instant information on anything we want and love that empowerment. Many experts agree that the Internet becomes an addiction that can’t be overcome, certainly by some judge that can’t view what jurors do at home.

People probing search engines can quickly compromise any case involving someone who has a profile or news stories on the Internet.

The real issue is the planting of land mines by those seeking to sway or influence the verdict on any case.

I suspect that prosecutors are influenced to file cases or not based on early Social Media hype. Being political creatures hey want to be on the popular side of those prosecutions.

Judges are also caught up in the politics of popularity and don’t want to rule on the wrong side of a case especially when they could go either way.

Jury Internet shenanigans were out-of-control at the murder trial of music legend, Phil Spector. The lawyers in that case or Judge Larry Fiddler had neither a clue nor inclination to explore this uncharted territory. The massive amount of venom, outright lies and hate spewed by the so-called “True Crime” gossipmongers rather than credible evidence decided that case.

When I write stories about crimes and court cases I watch my web counter for the origin of my visitors. It’s always the same cops; prosecutors, jurors and even judges are Googling the name of the people involved in some investigation. They bookmark their favorite sites, that favor their opinions.

Right now the only way to beat this is to join in by leveling the playing field.

Lawyer’s hands are tied but the supporters, family and friends are not. They are always free to put up blogs, videos and tweets that counter-balance the negatives.

The best way to do it is to make a mini documentary that exposes the failings of the police investigation. Additionally you need to make sure you include all that helpful evidence the judges will undoubtedly exclude.

Putting up the story with proper meta-tags will insure the expose’ will be viewed by the very people who should not be viewing it.

It may be years or longer before they find a solution to this problem. The information age monster is growing by the second and so are prosecutor’s conviction rates. Remember it’s always the cops and prosecutors that routinely smear the accused with those press releases just before a judge is assigned to the case. The defense lawyers can do little since by the time they’re involved the rules of the court apply.

The best thing for the family and supporters can do is finding a TV producer/reporter willing to put together a professional documentary that serves the accused in the fight to counter the negatives. Yes, it will cost several thousand dollars but it is worth it in the long run.

Six minutes is the format of TV’s 60 Minutes and is the best way to make your case. If needed a second or third piece can be put up for the jurors that will be sure to get just a little more information. We must play to the short attention span of the public.

Can you really afford not to use and abuse the Social Media? I have my video production company always ready to roll on just such an assignment!


Anonymous said...

I was a Chicago Police Detective for over 20 years. And everything you said is dead on. Dueing certain "heater cases" the Cook County States Attorney's office would defer to see if the case hit the media. If it did, they'd charge. If it didn't show up on the news radar, the case would not see the light of day. They would only approve and send to trial cases they were likely to win. This helped their friends in the trial divisions. And, when their stint in felony review was over, they could expect like treatment from their cronies.

Olivia said...

Those are amazing guns on your header. Hope I could find some of those at the gun shop . Anyway, I have to agree with you. That social media has been influencing the outcome of criminal trials. More and more crimes are being solved because of social media.