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On murder and social media: Casey Anthony’s jury consultant speaks

A Lawyers USA exclusive

Minutes after the jury delivered a stunning defense verdict in the Casey Anthony murder trial, the defendant’s chief trial consultant, Amy Singer, spoke with Lawyers USA about what trial lawyers can learn from the case.

Singer, who has consulted on other high profile cases including the Jack Kevorkian and Michael Jackson trials, said that this case was different due to her extensive use of social media.

“Social media was the difference between winning and losing,” said Singer, whose company, Trial Consultants Inc., is based in Gainesville, Fla.

Working around the clock, Singer and her team of a dozen people monitored 40,000 blogs, chat rooms and Facebook pages to find out what people were thinking about the case as the trial progressed.

In an exclusive print interview, Singer – who admitted she was “shocked” by how quickly the jury returned a verdict – explains the trial tactics and gives insights about jury selection and her use of social media in the Casey Anthony trial:

Lawyers USA: You said blogs were a “life saver” in the case.  How so?

Singer: They were a life saver because they told us what the prosecution was thinking. Then the defense lawyers were able to answer those questions [in front of the real jury]. It was like having a free shadow jury. You would not believe the kinds of things people were saying, and a lot of it was counterintuitive. I needed to hear from pro-prosecution people. I don’t preach to the choir. I go to extreme measures to find people who are against my client. I’m not interested in persuading people on my side. I’m interested in persuading people on the fence.

Lawyers USA: Did you participate in the chat rooms or just sit back and observe?

Singer: We sent out trial balloons, made little comments. I told them who I was, that I was a trial consultant for the defense. One comment I posted was, ‘I don’t think George (Casey Anthony’s father) is going to win “Father of the Year” anytime soon.’ What blew my mind was that after George’s mistress testified, pro-prosecution bloggers said ‘Poor George, he’s not on trial.’ So we knew not to harp on George, because the more you harp on him, the more [the real jurors who may be leaning toward prosecution] were going to defend him.

Another question we asked was, ‘Why is Casey guilty of homicide?’ They told me there were four or five things, but nobody could pick out one thing. It amounted to circumstantial evidence. Also, the reasons were things that happened after [her daughter Caylee] died, [such as Casey partying and getting a tattoo in the month after], nothing before, so it doesn’t go to premeditation.

Lawyers USA: How did the lawyers use the information you mined from these blogs?

Singer: We sent comments constantly to [defense attorneys] Jose [Baez] and Dorothy [Clay Sims]. They had to integrate the comments into the trial and think fast, and they geared their case toward that. For example, when Cindy (Casey’s mother) testified [that] she did a [Internet] search for chloroform, everybody hated her. But others said this was a mother protecting her child. So we knew how to play that. That’s exactly what Jose said in his closing: ‘She’s protecting her child.’

Lawyers USA: Talk about jury selection in the case.

Singer: It’s not jury selection; it’s jury deselection. And jury deselection is king. We deselected 392 people who either said they think she’s guilty or said they wouldn’t be able to change their mind.

It’s being able to understand the code, because people talk in code. For example, when I asked Juror #7 during voir dire what she remembered hearing or reading about the case, she said, ‘Universal and a baby sitter.’ This told me what she recalled was lies and that she would probably be in favor of the prosecution. (Casey Anthony lied about working for Universal Studios and led the police there even though she did not have an office or job there.)

On the other hand, if someone told me, ‘I remember the search [for Caylee],’ that’s neutral. I also know that meant they probably saw George Anthony and his duct tape that the kid supposedly suffocated on. It was his duct tape.

I preferred to have people on the jury who didn’t have children. All the bloggers kept saying, ‘I’m a grandparent and if my grandkid went missing for three minutes I would know,’ or, ‘I’m a mother and I wouldn’t be out partying if my daughter was missing.’

The jury was very analytical. Three or four people on that jury were only interested in the forensic evidence, according to their body language. They leaned forward and went into the thinker position only during forensic evidence testimony. Obviously the forensic evidence wasn’t there for them.

– Sylvia Hsieh

Questions or comments can be directed to the writer at: sylvia.hsieh@lawyersusaonline.com