This Miami Herald article does a good job in mentioning some of the influence the national press and social media had on the events surrounding George Zimmerman’s arrest and eventual trial.
The basic theory is that the prosecution probably wouldn’t have opted for trial at all if it weren’t for all the attention. Online petitions sprouted up calling for the Florida police to arrest Zimmerman, and social media meddling in the case continued from there.
The whole thing reminds me of the prosecutor Marcia Clark in the OJ Simpson trial. Clark (who is writing legal thrillers now) hired image consultants and was said to complain about the amount of wardrobe she needed for a televised trial. To deny the pressure of public scrutiny in a highly-followed trial is to not worry about details like wardrobe. Clark felt the pressure down to her very stockings.
No-one can tell for sure what influence the public had on the OJ trial or the Zimmerman prosecution. Pundits are still wondering if social media had any influence at all on the Arab Spring, even though to us Internet denizens, the answer to all of this is quite obvious: Of course social media has a say. Of course human discourse shapes behaviors. It’s like wondering if chicken soup is good for colds. Who even asks this?
My server administration side has a few technical questions, though. Why, for the love of Pete, was a Skype-in testimony allowed to be on a publicized (or easily found) Skype ID? Getting around that would have been quite easy. Perhaps Skype should set up a process through which witnesses can register a temporary and secure ID for courtroom use only. This testifying-by-Skype thing is here to stay. May as well monetize it, make the defense or prosecution pay for the secure (and specifically-designed) connection. My next question is WTF is happening with the IT manager deleting files from Trayvon’s phone? Next question: Did anyone contact the NSA to see what they might have collected? I’m sure they’ve got something.
It’s over for now. Civil rights petitions have started up, asking for a civil rights infringement charge against Zimmerman. This, to me, seems to hold a lot of weight. What was it about Trayvon that aroused Zimmerman’s suspicions? So far, it seems like only Trayvon’s skin color. That’s a civil rights issue if that turns out to be true. I’m also curious if a wrongful death suit will arise, as OJ Simpson’s not-guilty verdict morphed into in the months after his trial. (OJ was found responsible for the two deaths in that civil trial).
What isn’t over is the permanent presence of everyone. We can’t deny social influences on our behavior. We can’t deny the Internet’s influence in our lives. We need to find fair ways of living with it.