A defense witness in the Jodi Arias murder trial was taken to the emergency room after a wave of online attacks.
The social media floodgates opened after domestic violence expert Alyce LaViolette testified that Arias stabbed her ex-boyfriend nearly 30 times, shot and stabbed him in self defense.
The Arizona Republic reports:
The tweets and other social-media posts began appearing the next week. “You can show your disgust with LaViolette,” they began, and they posted her office phone number and her website, and they suggested that people write negative reviews of her best-selling book on Amazon.com.
Someone also posted photos of LaViolette eating dinner with one of Arias' defense attorneys and posted the picture on Facebook. A friend of LaViolette's told the Republic that the defense witness went "to the emergency room last weekend for anxiety attacks and palpitations."
Attorney Anne Bremner, who said she received death threats after she provided legal council in the Amanda Knox case, told The Huffington Post that the kind of online ridicule LaViolette received could affect attorneys and witnesses in high-profile trials.
"It's something to take into account," Bremner said. "If I had kids I would consider it even more so."
Bremner said laws designed to protect witnesses like LaViolette may not be equipped to deal with social media firestorms.
"We have to look at whether the laws that protect the justice system have kept up with the Internet," Bremner said.
Criminal defense attorney Steve Cron said he's "saddened" to see LaViolette's reputation impugned, but said it doesn't seem like the online commenters have crossed any legal boundaries.
"It is a total abuse of the rights of free speech trying to intimidate someone, to slander and harass them because they voice an opinion," Cron said. "But the people who have done it have not crossed the boundaries between bad-mouthing somebody and something that would be threatening."
Though he finds the attacks cruel and unfounded, Cron said they're likely covered by the First Amendment's guarantee of free speech.
Arias, 32, is on trial for the murder of her ex-boyfriend. Prosecutors say she killed him in a jealous rage. If convicted, she could face the death penalty. LaViolette's testimony is expected to continue testifying Thursday.