by Kara Platoni
MediaNews has an interesting report on the opening of the trial of Laura Medina, the young woman charged with second-degree murder for causing a fatal auto crash in Castro Valley after a high-speed chase along the 580 freeway. The fatality? Medina's ex-boyfriend's new flame, Michelle Dickerson. The prosecutor argues that Medina rammed the car in a fit of jealousy after spotting her ex in Dickerson's car; Medina contends that she and her friends in the other car were playing a chasing game and that the wreck was an accident. What's exceptional in this case is the role that Medina's MySpace page has played in bringing attention to it.
Medina's mother, Laura Rangel, has used the social networking site to publicize the case, to convey messages between Medina and her supporters, and to refute law enforcement's version of events, including posting police reports, transcripts, and photos along with her commentary. The postings stirred controversy, especially after Rangel posted an old newspaper photo of prosecuting attorney Butch Ford with his grandmother, a retired judge. The prosecution worried that the postings might influence the witnesses; Rangel argued that she was merely posting public documents in an attempt to support her daughter, and that her free speech rights were being abridged. (The district attorney's office eventually backed down.) Jury selection starts this week -- although we have to wonder if such a well-publicized MySpace page is going to narrow the chances of finding jurors who aren't already familiar with the case.
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