Cell Phones, Social Media and the Casey Anthony Trial

News Harmon Leon 15:40, Jul 06 2011

How cell phones changed the coverage of the high profile Casey Anthony trial

Simple formula: Casey Anthony is to social media what O.J. Simpson was to cable TV.

The Casey Anthony trial has been compared to the courtroom dramas of O.J. and the Menendez brothers-a full-fledged legal spectacle within a media circus firestorm. The use of smartphones and social media were huge players in adding contemporary fuel to this sensationalist trial; bringing this case to the forefront of national attention and emphasizing how our modern brood devours news stories.

In the age of the Kardashians and Charlie Sheen Twitter rants, journalists and bloggers inside the Casey Anthony murder trial courtroom were allowed to use smartphones, iPads, and other devices to disseminate information in real time. (Old school laptops weren't permitted because the judge wouldn't allow the sound of furiously clicking keyboards.) Even courtroom spectators were able to leak texts and tweets into the social media stratosphere; allowing the country to devour the trial 140 characters at a time.

As the hot reality show ticket of the summer, the Twitterati dubbed such key players in the trial as "Lawyer Gaga," "The Velvet Hammer," and "The Jesus Juror." When the "not guilty" verdict was read, the public had immediate access to posted cell phone photos capturing shocked disbelievers outside the Florida courthouse shouting in unison, "We want justice for Caylee!"

Cell phones provide people instant access to social media. The untold number of generated tweets signals a change how the public digests and participates in news stories. Now everyone now has an instant Internet soapbox to express, argue, and form instant opinions. Sam Diaz---a Silicon Valley-based social-media expert and consultant-points out: "In the old days, we used to watch a newscast or read a news story. Now we get things so quickly that we are immediately reacting and feeling passionate."

Another key role cell phones played in the trial: cell phone records helped track Casey Anthony's movements-tracing all the calls and text messages she received and sent. Immediately after her daughter went missing, Anthony's cell phone pinged 20 different cell towers 754 times in the two-week period. Through her cell phone records, detectives were able to determine Anthony's whereabouts at such locales as Fusian nightclub-where she was photographed partying and participating in a "hot body" contest while her daughter was missing. 3 percent of her cell phone pings raised numerous courtroom questions-especially a call made near the Econ Trail where detectives guided volunteers to look for signs of Caylee Anthony's body. The cell phone record testimony was as influential as any key witness.

Social media provided the public the opportunity to keep up with literally every moment of the Casey Anthony murder trial. 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. In our age of cell phones and social media, the Casey Anthony trial is a mere litmus test of what's to come regarding coverage of our legal system and how the general public consumes information.

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