Monday, April 15, 2013

Social Media "Lynch Mob" Alleged As Jodi Arias Murder Trial Continues

People across the country and around the world are talking about the Jodi Arias murder trial. The trial of 32 year old Arias began on January 2, 2013 and has captivated a national audience through extensive gavel-to-gavel coverage by the HLN network. The trial is streamed online as well. For those of you who are just now tuning in, Jodi Arias is standing trial for the June 4, 2008 murder of her 30 year old former boyfriend Travis Alexander. The brutal nature of the murder and the sordid details of the relationship the two once shared has drawn in viewers and catapulted ratings.

But for many people who have been waiting more than four years for this case to go to trial, it has become somewhat personal. I find it fascinating that you don't have to have known the murder victim to be passionate about justice being served. People on both sides seemingly have drawn a virtual line in the sand, with those lined up on the side of the State on one side and those who support Arias, the defendant on the other. It's interesting to say the least. We have seen similar public interest and outrage in other recent trials, the Casey Anthony trial, the Scott Peterson trial, the Drew Peterson trial and the mother of all media trials - the OJ Simpson trial. The interest in criminal trials may explain why television shows such as "CSI", "Law and Order" and other popular shows have enjoyed long running rating success.

Those involved in high profile criminal trials often become household names. Remember Kato Kaelin and Judge Ito from the OJ Simpson trial? Catchphrases are coined, think "if it doesn't fit you must acquit". Witnesses on both sides are put under the microscope and lives are often turned upside down. Jurors were barred from public restaurants after delivering an unpopular verdict in the earlier referenced Orlando trial of Casey Anthony. In the Jodi Arias murder trial, it's the defense's expert witnesses who are feeling the red-hot heat from the public.  Dr. Richard Samuels was highly criticized for shoddy reporting and errors in his assessment of murder defendant Jodi Arias. Alyce LaViolette is the latest defense expert to feel the public backlash for her testimony in the high profile case.

LaViolette appears to have done some good work in her chosen field, working with battered women at a time when even law enforcement discounted "domestics". She spent more than 30 years working in this area, she's a published writer and paid speaker. However, her one-sided assessment of this case seemed flawed and her refusal to admit that data provided by a lying client could render her opinions as incorrect cost her dearly in the court of public opinion. LaViolette reportedly has been overwhelmed by a barrage of negative e-mails, scathing reviews of her upcoming book on Amazon.com and a wave of negative comments throughout social media channels caused her to seek treatment for anxiety and palpitations at an emergency room last weekend. She and the defense team have reported receiving death threats. 

AZCentral.com quoted retired Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Kenneth Fields who said "It's the electronic version of a lynch mob", in speaking about the negative attacks on LaViolette. Sree Sreenivason, chief digital officer and professor of journalism at Columbia University said she's never seen anything like the attacks on LaViolette.  The onslaught of online attacks were serious enough to prompt a meeting in Judge Stephens Chambers last week. Could this be the ongoing issue Judge Stephens was referring to when she ordered LaViolette to return to court on Tuesday of this week? Hmmm. Just wondering.

Rick Kenworthy confirmed that ABIP Training in Los Angeles has received numerous calls requesting that LaViolette be removed from their speaker's list, according to AZCental.com. As we know from this trial, ABIP provides training for abuse counselors. A friend of LaViolette's also confirmed that their Long Beach office has received numerous angry phone calls and at least one threat serious enough that police were called. My question is this:  are people going too far? How can you tell when a line is being crossed? I have my personal thoughts and opinions about Alyce LaViolette's work in this case. However, if these threats become an issue for this trial, then I'd say things are going too far.

People can choose not to buy her books and not to seek her out for therapy. But threats of a violence nature should never happen. Who will be next on the witness stand? Will LaViolette testify that Humpty Dumpty's fall was caused by Travis Alexander? Will Arias tweet an apology to Alyce LaViolette, or will she have pal Donovan Bering create a positive review of Alyce's book on Amazon? Will Arias sketch a photo of Jennifer Willmott dressed like her twin? Will Kirk Nurmi actually fall asleep in the court room? Anything is possible in this trial.

8 comments:

  1. I'm just trying to figure out where Nurmi is going with all this enlarging and enhancing of Travis cornea?!?!?!?!

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  2. Hi My Forte,

    I read that at the beginning of her testimony, Alyce said something along the lines of, "if I have a practice to go back to" when Willmott asked her if she had a private practice. That indicates that she had a good understanding of what her testimony might do to her career.

    I agree that death threats and anything that might affect the trial is over the line. The name calling about her appearance, age, sexuality, etc. makes me uncomfortable (I have only seen this on Amazon). An intelligent conversation and outrage about valid things can be discounted as a "lynch mob" when people go overboard.

    For the most part, what I have seen is legitimate outrage about ALV lying on stand, disregarding half the story in this murder case and ALV hurting the very people she has been trying to help all these years by her deceitful actions.

    What do you think? As always, great commentary! I love your site.

    Sue

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    1. Hi Sue,
      I've actually had to delete a few comments where people were using deragatory names about LaViolette. I try to read as many comments as I can, because I don't mind people with different viewpoints but it's not relevant what her sexual preference or weight is! There have been a few really bad ones...Thanks for your comments as always! I hope you keep reading and writing on this blog.

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    2. Oh wow.....I guess it wasn't just on Amazon. Maybe Amazon is the only site not erasing comments like that? Probably. Thanks for the kind comments. : )

      Sue

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  3. Me too! And now Nurmi wants a Mistrial! The state already has put in close to two million dollars paid for by it's taxpayers. I guess Nurmi wants more money by starting over. I would never consider him or his cohort to defend me. They are a joke! He reminds me of Baby Huey, Wah! Wah! He is boring and so is she.

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  4. Regarding the issue of threats against ALV ... well, I believe that we are in the very early days of the Internet, social media, and the proverbial 500 cable channels. The first use of the telephone was around 1877, the first use of the public Internet around 1988/89; so, we're still not quite sure how we should handle all of this new technology. In other words, we're not even adolescents with regard to understanding how all this openness and freedom to comment and freedom to respond in the blink of an eye affects us. I say the technology allows us to move faster than we can think.

    ...There is a lot to be said about the social media reaction to ALV, some of which is clearly over the top and threatens to become more about the reaction than what ALV actually said. We know that the anonymity of the Internet seems to bring out the worst in many people. Some like to believe that an Internet comment from an unknown source is harmless, but we know it isn't.

    .. I think ALV's testimony was professionally damaging to her -- not simply because she favors Arias but because her rationale was so obviously biased. I am tempted to call her testimony mercenary-like, but I actually think her bias is sincerely and long held (which is all the more damaging to her reputation and credibility ... I suspect that her prior work involved men who were so obviously abusers that it took this case to reveal/expose her biases).

    ... when I watch "true crime" shows, I often think how terrible it is that a person(s) tragedy becomes fuel for the entertainment industrial complex. There must be producers all over the country, on their knees each night praying for a ratings busting murder ... and the JA's of the world are already thinking ahead to their time in the spotlight, dreaming of manifestos and jailhouse marriage proposals, no doubt. I'm no shrink, but I wouldn't be surprised if JA has some traits that skirt the line of mental illness ... just enough to be an odd ball, but not enough for strong medication and a not guilty-by-reason-of-insanity diploma.

    ... And I think many people see this trial in that way, in the way of entertainment, that is. Our technology allows us to participate in ways we couldn't just a few years back, and we all get to be judges, jurors, and, to some extent, executioners. Hey, this trial has been great fun to watch (your is the best blog I've run across ... low literacy skills over at Headline News :-)) and I love reading the commentary. But some people need to understand that ALV can be rightly criticized, vigorously criticized, dis-invited or uninvited, and even given a low-star ranking on Amazon -- but we need to careful about what we say and how we say it. It's not a video game; there are still lives at stake.

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  5. Thanks, My Forte, for another great column. Unfortunately, this is life imitating art... again. Remember the Peter Finch classic, NETWORK (1976) & his, "I'm mad as hell & I'm not gonna take it anymore!" How prophetic & relevant, in retrospect.

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  6. I just found your blog and I love your grounded perspective. I've been watching the trial since Jodi got on the stand, have gone back and watched videos of earlier testimony by witnesses for the state, scoured the Internet for photos, reports, messages, etc. this has been a fascinating and tragic case to follow. I am always surprised when people post derogatory comments that are irrelevant to the case. It doesn't matter whether AL is skinny or fat, gay, bisexual or heterosexual...it matters that she is biased and wants to control every situation she is in. Her testimony speaks volumes about her lack of objectivity. I applaud her for being at the forefront of bringing attention to domestic violence but at the same time am highly suspicious at her effectiveness in any sort of therapeutic or clinical setting. She can't see the forest through the trees.

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