Could social media impact outcome of Marksville trial?

Scottie Hunter and Bryan McCann (Source: WAFB)
Scottie Hunter and Bryan McCann (Source: WAFB)

MARKSVILLE, LA (WAFB) - Trials take place now in a new, digital world with many videos going viral before charges are filed. A local professor weighed in on how a police body camera video could impact the jury's verdict in Marksville.

Day one of the high profile murder trial in Marksville started Monday and the prosecution wasted no time showing the jury body camera video from the deadly officer-involved shooting that ended with the death of an autistic 6-year-old.

"A lots going on at the same time. There's a lot of excitement, a lot of action going on and certainly sometimes people can't process all of it, but a body camera can," John Sinquefield, lead prosecutor in the case said.

It is likely not the first time many of the jurors saw the video, which went viral shortly after its release last September. With a huge growth of social media in recent years, it's likely many people have seen the video and formed their own opinions. LSU communications studies professor, Bryan McCann, said it is unclear though how that may affect the trial's outcome.

"People have quick access to information and can do the work of contextualizing the events before they're even invited to a potential jury," Bryan McCann said.

McCann said those videos have such a large reach because so many people have access to them on their phones. He said the problem occurs when jurors allow what they watch to affect their judgement.

"I may see one video completely differently from the way another person can and in some respects, that's the function of a deliberative democratic culture, but in others, when we're trying to arrive at some semblance of truth in what happened, that can complicate the process," McCann said.

In years past, a potential juror could be dismissed if they knew too much about a case. Now, McCann said striking a jury that has not followed a story is almost impossible. He said it has never been more vital for jurors to remain impartial.

"For a juror, it's a matter of striking a balance between being a citizen of the world you live in and taking that responsibly and also as a juror taking seriously the responsibilities of both sides involved in the case," McCann added.

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