May 2, 2012
The shooting of a teenager in Central Florida usually does not spark protests in the streets of Los Angeles, New York or London. But as the Orlando Sentinel reports, Twitter has carried the name of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin across the globe, allowing thousands to analyze and deconstruct each new development in the case online.
Now, Mark O’Mara, a defense attorney for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood-watch volunteer who authorities charged in Martin’s death, has started a blog and accompanying Twitter and Facebook accounts to communicate directly with the public.
“This is a brilliant move on his part,” said Amy Singer, a Gainesville-based trial consultant who during the Casey Anthony trial analyzed more than 40,000 tweets and comments to gauge public reaction to defense tactics. Hemu Nigam, an Internet-safety expert, told the Sentinel that social media let everyday people caught in high-profile controversies manage their messages in a way that used to require a PR firm.
Zimmerman’s legal-defense team says it won’t use social media to comment on or disclose evidence in the case, or to comment on the character of Trayvon Martin, his family or supporters. On its website, the defense team says that reporters and others flooded O’Mara’s office with requests after he took on the case, and that social media “is the obvious answer.” — Greg Beaubien