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Legal Technology: Social Media Now Being Used within Court Rooms

Legal Featured Article

November 08, 2012

Social Media Now Being Used within Court Rooms

By Jamie Epstein, TMCnet Web Editor

Social media is infiltrating every aspect of our daily lives, with the most recent being the legal industry. It makes complete sense as to why these sites would be used as evidence, especially since many people are naïve enough to admit guilt and say various things they shouldn’t be on these very public forums in the first place or even as a way to spread a vital message in regards to someone’s innocence.

Looking at a specific example of how lawyers are now leveraging social media, we look at the case of Trayvon Martin. Martin was murdered by George Zimmerman in an act in which Zimmerman, a Hispanic neighborhood watch volunteer, shot Martin back in February as he was walking to a friend’s house. Since becoming Zimmerman’s lawyer, Mark O’Mara has used both Twitter (News - Alert) and Facebook to outline what he is referring to as “avalanche of misinformation” about the case and Zimmerman alike, according to a recent piece featured on The New York Times website.

Further, O’Mara revealed that he wanted to bring these social platforms into the actual trial to prove what Zimmerman has been saying all along; that this murder was committed in a case of self-defense. Last month, the judge in the case made this a reality by enabling O’Mara to subpoena Twitter and Facebook (News - Alert) for the vital information.

“The way the whole case has been playing out in social media is typical of our times, but more typical of civil cases than criminal cases,” stated Robert Ambrogi, a lawyer and technology expert. “It’s not without precedent, but it’s on the cutting edge.”

This is not the first time we have seen social media used in order to rule for or against a defendant, as there have long been situations in which posts or pictures added to this sites were allowed though they were predominantly seen in cases that didn’t have to deal with murder like cheating husbands or someone filing for disability who was still working at a job off the books.

“In the world of electronic information, the amount of potentially relevant information in discovery has exploded,” added Kenneth Withers, the director of judicial education and content for The Sedona Conference. “And with social media, there has been an explosion of an explosion.”

In another recent lawsuit that involved social media, a woman with the last name McGurk stated that during her marriage, she suffered an accident which led to her to needing nearly $850 a month in alimony from her ex. However, after information from both her Facebook and Myspace were shown during the trial, it was proven that after the so-called accident she was successful in her career of being a belly dancer. Thus, the judge determined she was ineligible for support.

This increasing trend will likely continue to be used in courtrooms throughout the country. But hey, if you're dumb enough to post incriminating posts of pictures on your personal site, why shouldn’t you suffer the consequences?

Edited by Allison Boccamazzo



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