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Social Media’s Role in Zimmerman Trial

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.







Comments on this entry are closed.

  • efiftythree 15 July 2013, 1:23 pm

    I guess I would add that Zimmerman’s interest was apparently initially driven by recent criminal activity in the area and that it was odd to have someone wandering around late at night in the rain. He only brought up the color of Martins skin in response to a query from the 911 dispatcher. Anything else is speculation of the same kind that drove this entire process into the ground.

    Also, I may have been confused when reading the article about the IT manager but didnt he bring it to the attention of the defense or other parties that the data he pulled (the report) was larger than the one handed over by the Prosecution? He was attempting to act as a whistleblower of sorts? Please correct me if I’m wrong on that.

    • efiftythree 15 July 2013, 1:26 pm
      • PurpleCar 15 July 2013, 4:00 pm

        Good find on the CNN article. There’s still a whole lotta iffy on the IT manager thing. As technology analysts, though, it’s looking like balls were dropped along the way. You can’t just throw together data evidence, or “hand it over” or whatever. There need to be discovery processes in place that are strictly followed. Just seems odd.

        • efiftythree 15 July 2013, 4:10 pm

          Yeah, I dont know how things work at that level but I find it odd that the IT Director was responsible for performing this activity at all. One would think, especially in this high profile case, that forensic analysts would be used and they would be required to maintain a chain of custody on all data retrieved.

          • PurpleCar 15 July 2013, 4:32 pm

            The fact that the trial lawyers didn’t think about instructing the witness to make himself unavailable in Skype during testimony makes me think there isn’t really anyone knowledgeable at the helm. I’ve seen this “it’ll just work” ignorant approach in professional settings before. The general public knows so little about IT that they don’t even know they are supposed to ask questions about these things. My guess is the IT director probably had an idea that the request made to him was ridiculous, and tried to communicate this to deaf ears. Recovery is a serious thing. Sungard and other data facilities exist just to deliver this service.

            • Ezra S F 25 July 2013, 10:06 pm

              A few years ago, one of our clients was sued and an instance of a service was investigated for evidence. It was disheartening to listen to lawyers on both sides be completely clueless how technology worked. I mean, if there is going to be a court case over the use of content, then even a basic understanding of that use ought to be relevant. Reading the court documents later proved not to be the case.

              We still have that system’s data and servers around because appeals are still possible. And we are set to decommission that system’s replacement soon, but that client’s data will have to be preserved on that system too.

              • PurpleCar 26 July 2013, 1:58 pm

                Ezra, what a nightmare! So you’ll just keep those boxes in perpetuity I suppose? That really stinks. Label them reeeeally well, is my only advice. Like: Court case #nnnn in ____ court in _____ state. That kind of thing.

                It is quite disheartening to hear that basic computer structure hasn’t hit the mainstream, though. Lawyers now should take a basic infrastructure course, basic security course, etc. at the very least. What a shame.

        • efiftythree 17 July 2013, 2:47 pm

          IT dudes lawyers plan to file a Whistleblower lawsuit against the Prosecutor(s). http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/16/us-usa-florida-shooting-lawsuit-idUSBRE96F1EL20130716

          I think its fairly clear that there was a failure in process from the very beginning. Most likely caused by the struggle they had in even bringing a case in the first place.