Casey Anthony and the Social Media Trial
AbstractIn 2008, 22-year-old Casey Anthony was charged with first degree murder of her toddler, Caylee Anthony. Press coverage and social media discussion of the case sparked nationwide attention. Though Anthony’s trial began in 2011, media platforms offered interpretations of the evidence and accounts of Anthony’s life before the crime as early as 2008—making an exceptional quantity of information accessible to the public before jury selection began. Anthony’s trial calls the court system’s capacity to effectively sequestrate juries into question, as media reports are largely protected under the first amendment and difficult to keep accountable. The Casey Anthony trial was among the first court cases tried by social media in the court of public opinion. Contrary to the decision made by the selected jury, the court of public opinion found Anthony guilty of murdering her daughter and enforced social and economic punishments separate from the court system as such. In the age of the social media trial, a person’s right to a fair trial and reasonable punishment comes in direct conflict with the media’s right to free expression and the general public’s right to consume news sources of their choosing. The inability of the Florida courts to truly sequester a jury in the social media era inadvertently results in the prioritization of one inherent right over another, solidifying social media users’ right to post at will. Anthony may have been acquitted in the courtroom, but in the outside world she suffered social punishments that clash with her court-ordained status as an innocent woman.