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Social media affects jury, witnesses in Zimmerman trial


A tense day of testimony in George Zimmemman's murder trial as the prosecution's star witness took the stand.

Rachel Jeantel was Trayvon Martin's friend and told the jury she was on the phone with him when Zimmerman approached the teen.

But a controversial point about that star witness came out and it has to do with what she wrote on Facebook and Twitter.
  
Weeks before she took the stand, Rachel Jeantel was already making statements.   The 19-year-old was on Facebook and Twitter showing off a fresh manicure for court and a last drink before a tough week ahead. 

Three months ago she seemed to be tweeting on the case:  "remember who cause the funeral to happen…"

The tweet was later deleted.  But just over a week ago she seems to  tweet again about her pending testimony:   "…deal with the bull come with it."

Jeantel was on the phone with Martin last year when he encountered George Zimmerman.  Her credibility is vital to the prosecution's case and it's under attack.

The online comments haven't been an issue in court so far but more than just the defendant, witnesses, even jurors are being checked for digital fingerprints.

It's not unusual with a little just a little bit of discovery and a little bit of footwork, lawyers and police alike are finding treasure troves of information about people on their social media account

And the defense has already used it.  Mark Omara challenged this witness about a pro-Trayvon Martin comment on Facebook.

Can you tell me what that says on your Facebook page right there?

Prosecute the killer of our son 17-year old Trayvon Martin...Sign the petition.

A week earlier the judge raised questions about posts from a potential juror. 

Did you post something on March 21, 2012 under the coffee party progressives?

That man was dismissed.

One thing to keep in mind is that our private digital activities on line in digital media are public.

USC professor and social networking expert Karen North says this could be just the beginning.   High profile trials, broadcast in real time on the web are a source of instant feedback to attorneys.

They can make decisions to tweak their prosecution or their defense to try and take advantage of what they are learning from this online discussion.

In this case...George Zimmerman's defense team actively monitors  multiple twitter hashtags...But we're told those comments have no direct effect on what we see them doing in court.

The court however isn't taking those chances with the jury.