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Sunday, October 24, 2010

Twitter and the Steven Hayes trial

Twitter Bird

While most of the country has been focused on the upcoming mid-term elections, many of us here in Connecticut have divided our time between politics and -- the Steven Hayes trial. Since that horrible day in 2007 when two souless creeps broke into the Petit home and committed henious crimes against Dr. Petit, his wife, and children, all of us have attempted to imagine the horror happening to us, and recognizing that it could happen to any of us, at any time. Admittedly, since the news of the tragedy, we've all become a little more cautious about personal security, and far more protective of our loved ones.

It's been three long years since Hayes and Komisarjevsky murdered the Petit women, and yet it seems like yesterday. The media still uses the same mug shot of Hayes when they report on the story. He appears like a clueless, bald-headed freak - and in truth, I'm sick of his face. We all are.

Connecticut doesn't allow television cameras, or electronic recording equipment in its courtrooms, so we are stuck with artist sketches - some very good, and some very cartoonish. But surprisingly, the courtroom does allow ipads, cell phones (on silent), and computers. Which has permitted those watching the proceedings to tweet - sometimes word for word, what witnesses are saying. And of course, we also get observer's color commentary on everything from facial expressions of the jury, to one reporter referring to another as the moocher reporter.

So, over the past month, I've been glued to my Droid, reading all the court activity via Twitter - while on the road, at work, and even at the gym. While we rely on 140 character rapid-fire reports from neutral eyewitnesses (mostly journalists), we in reality - are thinking, feeling, and monitoring the proceedings through the eyes of Dr. William Petit and the Hawke family. Every word, quote, and observation is carefully measured by those of us out in the global, virtual peanut gallery.

Twitter is a marvelous tool. It's so unlike the medium of television, and radio - where you tune in and take what's dished out by the press in a one-way format. Twitter allows us to interact with reporters and observers, real time, as they report proceedings. And sometimes, we outsiders pipe in with color commentary of our own.

While some reporters, like George Colli, sort of get into the whole interactive format of the medium - often asking people what they think and provoking dialogue, I'm sure some reporters dislike the idea of being on a level playing field with a hundred amateur voices. I've been fortunate enough to have sone incredible interaction with not only reporters, many people who feel strongly about the trial (including some close friends of the family). And I do admit, not all the commentary I've seen is in good taste, and some of the retweeting by individuals becomes a little tiresome. Do we really need a nonstop echo?

In some ways a lot of this is probably not healthy. And I mean the obsession of wanting to constantly stay connected, and wanting to read every #Hayes tweet, and feeling the need to join in the conversation, or even vent. Then again, the interaction with paid journalists, lawyers, and Twitter Nation is almost a sort of group therapy.

When witnesses told of the extreme horror and detail of events of that night, we shared in the pain with reporters. And when Steven Hayes was found guilty, we read it on Twitter and jumped for joy in celebration. When we saw the rediculous boastful journal entries by Joshua Komisarjevsky, we became angry, and when we heard Hayes whining about the size of his cell, and wanting to commit suicide, we all wondered-- why stop the sick SOB?

As we continue with the sentencing phase of this trial, its good to know we have a place to interact with Petit-Hawke family supporters. I'm glad I can add my voice to the dozens of people online who hope and pray that justice is served, and Hayes and Komisarjevsky will be no more.

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