By Amy Singer, Ph.D. and Diana Greninger
Social media is starting to have a tremendous impact on legal cases. It is forcing both plaintiff and defense attorneys to tweak strategies used in court. As mentioned in our previous article Investigating Jurors: Don’t Stop Until You Have Enough, one can find a vast amount of information about people online.
Social media websites such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and blogs encourage users to voluntarily share lots of personal information about themselves in the World Wide Web. Needless to say, you will stumble upon information that will force you to reevaluate some of your strategies, specifically, your trial themes.
A trial theme is a single word or short sentence that encompasses the message you are trying to send to jurors. Every member of the jury should know precisely what your theme is before you rise for summation. If members of a jury do not understand what you are talking about, they probably will not find in your favor. That is why the use of themes, analogies and metaphors are so important. If the theme is your trial story, then analogies and metaphors are the language you must use to tell that story so jurors will understand it.
Social media can provide you with invaluable information about opposing parties, witnesses and jurors, therefore allowing you to choose the themes that will be most likely understood by your jury. This information may also aid in formulating analogies and metaphors, which help relate the case to jurors.
It is important to get to know your jury as well as possible during voir dire, so you can better understand the information found about them in the social media realm. You can then create themes, analogies and metaphors that will be easily understood by them and relate to their lives. For example, if some of your jurors post pictures or information about how much they love to fish, you might want to use a theme or analogy that relates to fishing. Utilizing their interests will create positive associations for them and make it easier for them to remember key issues in your case.
There are many tools available (such as Hootsuite, SproutSocial, Sysomos and Tweetchat, to name a few) to assist your team in their social media discovery process, many of which are free. The key is to know how to run effective searches that will provide the information you need to tweak your themes and trial strategies.
As explained by Christy Mennen in her article entitled Social Media and your defense themes, if you choose to use information found within the social media realm in trial, you may need to fight for such information to be brought into evidence. You may need to provide testimony from parties or witnesses to accompany the evidence.
Will you employ an enhanced social media discovery process on your next trial?