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Social media to play a prominent role in upcoming trial in Ohio rape case

We recently told our readers about an Ohio rape case that made national news after social media sites began to discuss the issue. As we noted, the press the case has received has not been particularly helpful for the defendants, who now face the added challenge of public judgment before they are tried in a court of law. Now, social media is being used in support of pending legal arguments for both the alleged victim and the defendants, creating a unique dynamic between prosecution, defense, and the jury.

The two high school footballs players accused of participating in the rape reportedly had their electronic devices confiscated during the investigation following the incident, as did a number of others involved. Those devices were turned over to the state for investigation. Tens of thousands of e-mails, texts and photos were reviewed prior to the arrest of the defendants, who are currently on house arrest.

Prosecutors are pointing to a photo of the alleged victim being held by both defendants, suggesting that she was unconscious, but defense attorney deny she was unconscious, and present other evidence suggesting that one of the defendants was not at fault. Text messages posted to social networks are also circulating. Police are also tracking a video that supposedly shows both boys participating in the rape.

The social media aspect of this case is more extensive than is commonly seen, but is indicative of a growing trend that will continue to affect the way crimes are investigated and prosecuted. This case is perhaps a bit unique, though, in that there is no physical evidence a rape actually exists. This means that the trial will focus on the interpretation of media evidence.

We will keep our readers informed of developments in this interesting case.

Source: Yahoo News, "Ohio rape case: Evidence on social media creates new world for justice system," Mark Guarino, January 9, 2012

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