Anne Bremner has either through her work as a lawyer, or as a media commentator on legal proceedings had a ring side seat for many of the most well known trails in modern US history. Her books is like a who’s who of trials, we have Scott Peterson, OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony, the parents of Susan Powell, and also represented true crime royalty Anne Rule in a defamation case. Perhaps the case her name is most attached to is that of Amanda Knox, the American student tried in the confusing Italian justice system for the murder of her British flatmate Meredith Ketcher, which kept the international press interested for years.
It is with this background that Bremner writes specifically about the influence that the media, and social media have had on the justice system and the cases she has seen throughout her career. As we have seen in Britain recently with conspiracy theories proliferating on Tik Tok, around the bungled police response to the search for missing Lancashire woman Nicola Bulley, social media cannot just impeed investigations, but can be extreamly painful for those who are going through an incredibly difficult time already
The cases that Bremner disect start off when social media was not yet part of our daily landscape. Both Scott Peterson and OJ Simpson trials, but they were still big media trials. So big that I can remember a TV being wheeled into my small secondary school in the Highlands of Scotland, so pupils could watch the OJ verdict in the canteen during lunch. That was unprecidented at the time, and the amount that OJs team had to consider and worked the media, shocked those of us who had perhapse a more old fashioned view of the justice system.
While it is certainly clear through Bremner’s expereince that media speculation and poor reporting can now make recieving a fair trial and moving on, for those who are innocent, very difficult; this idea is balanced with the good that can be done. If it had not been for the by-standars who filmed the brutal killing of George Floyd it may have been much more difficult, or even impossible, to convict the police officer who killed him. While it is easy to agree with Bremner, that media and social media are creating significant barriers to the persuit of justice, it is a genie that, short of worldwide apocolypse, can not be put back into the bottle.
While Bremner makes her case well, as you would expect, we are left at the end of the much more puzzling question – what to do about it? Which is a much tricker and more difficult question to answer.
For more on social media and crime, check out our episode on Men Who Hate Women