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Could social media work to deprive a defendant of a fair trial?

Comments on Twitter coming from President Trump have garnered their share of controversy since he took office in January. While some appreciate his propensity to speak his mind and find his honesty refreshing, others believe it is irresponsible and not fitting for a president to be so reckless and uninformed, especially when it comes to current legal matters.

A recent APnews.com report highlighted concerns that President Trump’s tweets may currently have on high-profile, controversial cases, as well as legal matters that may arise in the future. He weighed in on the prosecution of the man behind a recent terrorist attack in New York, saying that it would be “appropriate” to try him in a civilian court instead of a military tribunal, and calling for the death penalty.

Indeed, a president commenting on criminal matters is nothing new. President Obama reportedly called for five men accused in the September 11 attacks to be tried in civilian courts instead of in Guantanamo Bay, but the move was quashed through political opposition.

Nevertheless, the concerns about the president’s tweets sheds light on larger question: can social media comments potentially deprive a criminal defendant of a fair trial? It is reasonable to consider given how such comments could potentially affect the social conscience of those called to be impartial when evaluating one’s guilt or innocence.

This further exemplifies the need for an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent those charged with a crime, regardless of how controversial or heinous it may be. Simply put, the facts alleged must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law, not through opinions on social media.

 

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