For decades, attorneys have used focus groups in the form of mock juries to test how they should and shouldn’t present a case in court. If you’ve ever participated in one, and I have, they’re quite interesting: The attorneys bring in a bunch of people, present their crux of their case over the course of a few hours, have other attorneys present the opposing side’s case in the way they think the actual opposing attorneys would, and then quiz the participants for reactions — “Did so-and-so seem like a credible witness?”, “Was the attorney presenting the case likeable?”, etc.
But now we all have new tools at our disposal in the form of, well, the internet, to gauge what people are thinking about any number of things — movies, TV shows, sporting events, and yes, high-profile court cases. So it probably shouldn’t come as any surprise that social media, in addition to being an outlet for Casey Anthony trial comedy, was instrumental in the shaping of Casey Anthony’s defense by her legal team — a strategy that, as we all now know all too well, succeeded at getting her off — but it’s still sort of jarring to learn. I felt both fascinated and queasy reading this Palm Beach Post story on how they did it with the help of Fort Lauderdale-based jury consultant Amy Singer.
“When bloggers and others in social media sites started to attack George Anthony about his alleged mistress, the defense team beefed up their questions against him,” said Fort Lauderdale-based consultant Amy Singer. “None of the bloggers ever changed their minds about him.”
Every day of the trial, Singer and her revolving team of at least five people scanned thousands of tweets, Facebook posts and messages from bloggers.
They read through tweets on WFTV.com, Orlando Sentinel’s @OSCaseyAnthony Twitter feed and other local media sites, gauging opinions about defense and state attorneys, witness testimonies, evidence and especially the focal point of the trial — Casey Anthony.
Those opinions were presented to Casey Anthony’s defense attorney, Jose Baez, who initially had his doubts about the social media tactic. Ultimately, Singer said, Baez would decide how and what he was willing to adjust in his trial strategy.
The story goes on to note that Singer and her researchers(?) were adamant that the defense go easy on Casey Anthony’s mother because the internet showed overwhelming sympathy for her.
When public opinion on Twitter or Facebook changed dramatically, Singer said she made it clear to the defense that they needed to tweak their strategy.
“A perfect example was Cindy Anthony,” Singer recalled. “People hated her when she admitted to the chloroform searches, but there were many who said she lied out of motherly instinct. They felt a kinship, especially mothers. In closing, the defense softened its approach and said she lied to protect [Casey Anthony].”
Congrats, Internet, you — along with whatever Florida law allows cameras in the courtroom — possibly helped free Casey Anthony, which means angry TV hag Nancy Grace probably wants to eat your pimply face right about now (As probably does the lady who was assaulted for looking like Casey Anthony). Paula Deen will supply the butter.