Silent Jury, Speaking Public

As the Casey Anthony trial begins to heat up, the media pushes out every word spoken inside the halls of justice to the awaiting public —  a public full of opinions on her guilt or innocence.  Lawyers on both sides have spent hundreds of hours preparing for this trial, consulting jury experts, prepping witnesses, and preparing their prosecution and defense strategies.

Now that the trial has started, everyone is watching the jury.  Did the smile that juror 6 have when Casey first walked in mean he’s leaning toward her?  Was juror 9, who recently lost a niece who was about Caylee’s age, deeply moved by pictures of the little girl?  We don’t know. And we won’t know.

Highly publicized jury trials are nothing new, like the trials of OJ Simpson, Martha Stewart, and Winona Ryder.  What is new is the instant online feedback from the public – the speaking jury – that can enlighten us all.   While the 12 citizens in the box might not be allowed to judge or talk until the very end, the 120,000,000 citizens online will say plenty every step of the way.  They will tweet, Facebook, post, and opine.  They will, in essence, render a daily verdict.

Take this tweet from actor Jason Alexander:

Can all this coverage affect how justice is served?  Should anyone involved in the case be paying attention to all this chatter?

Being “convicted in the media” is taking on a whole new meaning.  The public chatter can be a very valuable resource when judging the progress that either side is making.  It can be so valuable that legal teams on both sides would be remiss if they did not pay close attention to it every day.  As legal professionals we all need to take a lesson from this case.

Having prosecuted rapes and murders in Los Angeles and tried Internet predators as a U.S. Department of Justice prosecutor, I have had to ‘read’ a juror’s body language and facial expressions in a constant effort to determine how my case was proceeding.  Every time, I could do nothing more than guess, speculate, and hope.

Today’s counsel in the Casey Anthony case and the soon to start Michael Jackson murder trial have a speaking jury that always has something to say when it comes to justice.  Because juries are picked from a group of our peers, there is no better way for us to understand what might be happening in the collective mind of the silent jury than to listen to ITS speaking peers.  That means listening intently to online chatter by having a social media savvy intern dedicated to scouring social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) looking to see how the public jury is reacting to any given bit of evidence or testimony is a necessary component of prosecuting to the fullest or defending vigorously.  Legal teams can adjust their tactics as they continuously get a sense of how the jury might go.

Juries aren’t always predictable.  And, anyone who has ever tried a case in front of a jury wishes they could have had more insight into the minds of the jurists.  Now, in a way, we actually can.

Justice may be blind, the jury may be silent, but the public will surely speak online.

What can you can do to make sure an E-impersonation Bill gets passed in your state?

As I stated in my blog, in order to protect yourself  and your loved ones in today’s digital age, while simultaneously giving law enforcement the power they need to prosecute E-Impersonation for cyber-bulling purposes, we all need to work together to get involved and ensure that each state has or passes a similar bill to California’s Penal Code Section 528.5.  There are a few steps that are needed to make this happen and we will keep you posted over the next few weeks as we make progress to make sure EVERY state can protect EVERY person in this country.

So far, only a few states have laws similar to this law in California.

The first step is letting your state legislator know that you have a right to be protected.  Find out who your legislator is by visiting this website and then write him/her a letter or an email (suggested copy is below):
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Dear YOUR LEGISLATOR,

This letter is to respectfully request that you take a look immediately at a law recently passed in the state of California (Senate Bill 1411 reflected in California Penal Code Section 528.5) making “E-Impersonation” a crime.  Very few states have laws like this that protect politicians, celebrities, and victims of cyber-bullying.

There is a growing and concerning rise of individuals using the anonymity of the Internet to harass, threaten and severely annoy people by impersonating them online (E-Impersonation).  This type of behavior can have significant ramifications in the impersonated victim’s life including suicide, depression, helplessness – all of which are avoidable with the right laws and awareness in place.  Politicians and celebrities are not the only victims of such abuse…it can affect EVERYONE including the helpless child who is impersonated online for cyber-bullying purposes.  We are at a stage in our digital century when we critically need additional tools for law enforcement to have in their arsenal to fight this crime.

California’s Senate Bill 1411 makes it unlawful to knowingly and without consent credibly impersonate another person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means with the intent to harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud another person. An impersonation is credible where another person would reasonably believe, or did reasonably believe, that the defendant was or is the person who was impersonated.

As our reliance on the Internet increases, many opportunities for abuse have and will present themselves. The victims of such harassment and threats as of impersonation perpetrated through the Internet are typically left without adequate legal protection to stop this abuse.  California and a handful of other states have rectified this problem by making it a crime to impersonate someone on an Internet Web site or through other electronic means such as email, Facebook, Twitter, and other social media websites.  Violators can not only be prosecuted criminally but the victim can also seek civil remedies.

Senate Bill 1411 received bipartisan unanimous support in both houses of the Legislature in California; and it’s important that we are protected here in our state as well.

There is no doubt that a similar bill here would have support from law enforcement, crime victims, and privacy advocates.

I respectfully request your attention to this matter.

Sincerely,
YOUR NAME HERE

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We can stop E-Impersonation.  Please join us and act now.

Thanks,
Hemu

E-Impersonation is a CRIME

There is a growing and concerning rise of individuals using the anonymity of the Internet to harass, threaten and severely annoy people by impersonating them online (“E-Impersonation”).  This type of behavior can have significant ramifications in the impersonated victim’s life including suicide, depression, helplessness – all of which are avoidable with the right law(s) and awareness in place.  Politicians and celebrities are not the only victims of such abuse…it can affect EVERYONE including the helpless child who is impersonated for cyber-bullying purposes.  We are at a stage in our digital century when we critically need additional tools for law enforcement to have in their arsenal to fight this crime.

It is time to ensure that every state in our country has a law that appropriately protects our citizens from E-Impersonation.  The state of California has recently shown us that it can be done and can be done now.  In California, State Senator Joe Simitian spearheaded California Senate Bill 1411 into what has become California Penal Code Section 528.5, which in part states:

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any person who knowingly and without consent credibly impersonates another actual person through or on an Internet Web site or by other electronic means for purposes of harming, intimidating, threatening, or defrauding another person is guilty of a public offense punishable pursuant to subdivision (d).

(b) For purposes of this section, an impersonation is credible if another person would reasonably believe, or did reasonably believe, that the defendant was or is the person who was impersonated.

(c) For purposes of this section, “electronic means” shall include opening an e-mail account or an account or profile on a social networking Internet Web site in another person’s name.

(d) A violation of subdivision (a) is punishable by a fine not exceeding one thousand dollars ($1,000), or by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(e) In addition to any other civil remedy available, a person who suffers damage or loss by reason of a violation of subdivision (a) may bring a civil action against the violator for compensatory damages and injunctive relief or other equitable relief pursuant to paragraphs (1), (2), (4), and (5) of subdivision (e) and subdivision (g) of Section 502.

In other words, this California law can help stop cyber-bullying through E-Impersonation.  We hope there will be a Federal law soon.

Find out how how to protect yourself and your love ones and make an impact by bringing this matter to your legislature’s attention, click here.

Thanks,
-Hemu

More Resources for you to check out:
Here is a video from CNN where I explain further.

Please take a look at Senator Simitian’s website where you can read the entire law (it’s only ONE paragraph), read the letter he wrote to then Governor Schwarzenegger, and a very simple ‘fact sheet’ that explains all you need to know.