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George Zimmerman's Lawyers Give Him a Social Media Boost

9:53 AM, May 1, 2012   |    comments
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SANFORD, Fla. -- The murder suspect in the Trayvon Martin murder case may be in hiding - but he's highly visible on the Internet.

George Zimmerman's defense team has set up a Twitter account, a Facebook page and a website for the neighborhood watch volunteer, who has been in seclusion following death threats. Zimmerman is awaiting trial for killing Trayvon, 17, on Feb. 26 in Sanford, Fla.

"We understand that it is unusual for a legal defense to maintain a social media presence on behalf of a defendant, but we also acknowledge that this is a very unusual case," attorney Mark O'Mara says in his first Web posting. O'Mara contends that Zimmerman shot Trayvon in self-defense.

Prosecutors say Zimmerman shot Trayvon after racially profiling the African-American teenager. Zimmerman's father is white, and his mother is from Peru.

O'Mara said the website, called George Zimmerman Legal Case, is aimed at discrediting fake websites and social profiles that purport to be representing Zimmerman and even raising money on his behalf.

A second website will soon go live to raise money for the case, O'Mara said. Zimmerman himself had previously set up his own website and raised more than $200,000 for his defense, but that site and others have been shut down in order for his defense team to have complete control.

"It is not in Mr. Zimmerman's best interests to speak publicly about this case, and as he has hired us to represent him, we feel part of our responsibility to our client is to provide a voice for Mr. Zimmerman, but only when it is appropriate to do so," a post on Zimmerman's site reads.

Randy Reep, a Jacksonville-based criminal defense attorney who is not involved in Zimmerman's defense, says O'Mara's use of social media is highly unusual. "There is layer upon layer of extraordinary behavior here," Reep says. "In criminal defense cases when the stakes are so high I have not seen it before. With something novel like this I would be concerned about the potential of a backfire for the client."

Comments on the Facebook page range from those who are disgusted by the campaign to those supportive and looking to donate money to Zimmerman.

Tweets on the subject are mainly negative.

From the beginning, social media has been a main place for people to interact about the Trayvon Martin case says social media strategist Mike Street.

"Social media is a free and easy way to build support for a case," Street says. "We will start to see a lot more cases turn to social media to tell their side of the story."

USA Today

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