Trials & Litigation

Defense Lawyer in Trayvon Martin Case Says Unusual Social Media Presence Is a Necessity Today


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Faced with the need to defend a client in a high-profile criminal case that has made international headlines, Mark O’Mara took an unusual approach to try to deal with an avalanche of often-adverse publicity.

He created a blog as well as Facebook and Twitter accounts for George Zimmerman, who is charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of an unarmed teenager in a gated Florida community in which Zimmerman reportedly acted as a de facto neighborhood watch captain.

By taking control of the information being provided about his client, O’Mara obviously hopes to humanize him and correct factual inaccuracies in media accounts, writes a columnist for the Orlando Sentinel. And, by monitoring online comments, it’s possible that he will glean some information that might be useful to the defense of the case.

But this social media approach, which writer Beth Kassab calls unprecedented, also presents potential pitfalls. Among them is the risk that it will encourage adverse publicity concerning his client.

O’Mara acknowledges that what he’s doing is experimental, but says he’s taken a conservative approach.

“There has been a lot of press today regarding the online presence we have put in place for the defense of George Zimmerman, and we are not surprised to discover that our decision is controversial,” he wrote in a May 1 blog post at George Zimmerman Legal Case. “Some have called it unethical, and some have called it brilliant; however, we believe much of the controversy is about the medium, not the message.

“Using social media in a high-profile lawsuit is new, and relatively unprecedented, but that is only because social media itself is relatively new. We repeat our contention that social media in this day and age cannot be ignored, and it would be, in fact, irresponsible to ignore the robust online conversation.”

Additional coverage:

Miami Herald: “Trayvon Martin’s social media posts may come up at trial”

Updated at 4:58 p.m. to link to Miami Herald article.

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