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Criminal Defense Law And Social Media

In a move which some find remarkably astute and others find unethical, Mark O’Mara the attorney for George Zimmerman accused of the murder of Trayvon Martin has established a website, a Twitter account, and a Facebook page solely dedicated to the case of his client. As attorneys and even Big Law begin to move more aggressively into using social media as part of their Internet prescence this is certainly a major development.

Mark O’Mara, Zimmerman’s attorney, delineates what the sites will and won’t do in acting in the defense of his client but the move has still sparked controversy.  What does O’Mara hope to accomplish with this social media prescense, not geared for a an entire law firm and its practice, but for one individual case and client? Will it create a venue for O’Mara to provide proper counsel for his client or will there be a backlash against attorneys entering the blogosphere as part of their case plan?

Many law firms, including The Crowley Law Firm PLLC, have Facebook and Twitter accounts. They are valuable for many purposes for example, if we blog a particularly interesting legal trend that could impact our clients, we do not have to wait for a main-stream media organization to report on the development. We can provide our clients and our potentia;l clients with the information in a timely manner. We can also show how it benefits our clients if we have a particular expertise in defending the associated kind of case.

We also use our blog platform within our site to fill in the gaps in media coverage. As criminal defense attorneys we often defend clients who may not have had the best face put on their case in the local media and have found reporters do not always report the intricacies of a particular prosecution or the legitimate right of our clients to defend themselves. Legal analysis of those cases are often misstated or just plainly in error.  We have on occassion used our blog, social media or radio and television appearances to put our story as a counterpoint to what may have been reported.

For example, in one case, if you read the press accounts, you would assume our client was guilty and going to be serving a long prison term. However, a judge after trial rendered a not guilty verdict based on the facts. The verdict was barely a side note in the press though the trial itself engendered numerous articles stating the prosecutions contentions as if they were facts — the judge didn’t agree they were proven facts. We were able to explain why our client was found NOT GUILTY and give the client more than a passing mention of his exoneration.

So what will judges think of this? How will prosecutors mine this type of social media for trial? What does the ABA think?

Looking at O’Mara’s Twitter account for the Zimmerman-Trayvon Martin case it currently has just 1300 followers  after a few weeks of operation (celebrities of course have millions of followers on Twitter). But it will be interesting to see if this is a one-off or a trend in criminal defense law cases.