Social media plays big role in Casey Anthony trial

3:35 AM, Jul 6, 2011   |    comments
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For whatever reason, millions of people followed the case of this young woman who waited more than a month to report her 2-year-old daughter Caylee was missing and later found dead.

Tuesday, the jury found Anthony not guilty of the murder and child abuse charges, but they did find Anthony guilty on four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer.

She could face more than four years in prison on those charges.

However, since she's already served three years behind bars while awaiting trial, she could also be released when a judge sentences her next week.

But on Tuesday, Casey was celebrating and embracing her legal team.

The acquittal shocked a lot of people outside the courtroom who were certain Anthony had something to do with her daughter's death. For many in the legal community, the not guilty verdicts on the more serious charges didn't come as a surprise.

An expert on social media says people were infatuated with this trial because of all the twists and turns, and because social media made it easier for them to get their fill on the latest developments in the case.

"It's kind of the rubbernecking phenomenon. It's a tragic story, almost Shakespearean tragic story. I mean you couldn't make this stuff up," Kip Wotkyns, Metro State College assistant professor of communications, said.

Wotkyns teaches the impact social media has on society in his journalism classes.

Wotkyns says the fictitious twists and turns in the trial kept people glued to their social media tools and the media committed to covering every development.

"Once it gets going it starts feeding on itself, and then it becomes essentially a media circus," Wotkyns said.

Ten years ago, Wotkyns says this trial wouldn't have captured so much attention, but with social media developing, people could get instant access.

One woman found out about the verdict 24,000 feet in the air on an airplane, and there was even a mobile application to get updates on the Anthony trial.

"The other thing that is so compelling about it is all of the other characters are so photogenic and she's in jail. And what's the next thing? And then the grandfather is having an affair," Wotkyns said.

So many allegations and claims, yet 9NEWS Legal Analyst Scott Robinson says in the end: when and how weren't answered by the state.

"The prosecutors were hampered by the absence of the when and how Caylee died. They could not even truly show that it was a murder and that made it very difficult to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt," Robinson said.

It was that lack of substantial evidence, Robinson says, that made it difficult for prosecutors to prove the child abuse accusations. The jury also found her not guilty of those charges.

Regardless of the verdict, the Anthony trial has paved the way for how high-profile murder trials are covered, watched and shared.

"The 24-hour news stations need compelling content, and could you find more compelling content than this? I don't think so. Their viewers want to know the latest twists and turns," Wotkyns said.


(KUSA-TV © 2011 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)

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