Young people’s use of social media and mobile technologies to document every facet and event in their lives, including violent and criminal behavior, has drawn national attention to the investigation into an alleged rape of a teenage girl in Ohio, reports the Christian Science Monitor. Not only are social media being used in support of the pending legal arguments for both the alleged victim and the defendants, but this case and others are creating the potential for a whole new courtroom dynamic between the prosecution, defense, and jury.
Ma’lik Richmond and Trent Mays, two high school football players in Steubenville, Oh., are charged with raping a 16-year-old girl at two separate parties in August. The names of both suspects, who are juveniles, are being used because a court judge, defense attorneys, and local media made their names public. Two days after the alleged attacks was reported, police confiscated about a dozen electronic devices belonging to all of the individuals involved. The devices were then turned over to the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation, which reviewed tens of thousands of e-mails, texts, and photos. The role social media plays in violent crimes is a relatively recent phenomenon dating back to the popularity of so-called “flash mobs,” which are public events involving group action that are planned and then executed using social media.