Friday, November 13, 2009
With more people living their lives online and out loud, social media sites like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, and online Web communications including photos and videos, are providing evidence in legal battles ranging from murder trials to employment lawsuits.
Up to now, social networking transactions have mostly been used as prosecutorial evidence, Mr. Browning said. He cited a burglar in September in Martinsburg, Pa., where the alleged burglar checked his Facebook page — and left it open. The police followed the digital trail to Jonathan G. Parker, 19, of Fort Loudoun, Pa., who was arrested.
That's also not to say that this type of evidence is uncontroversial. Joseph Pollini, who teaches in the Department of Law, Police Science and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, said prosecutors should not have been so quick to drop the charges.
"With a username and password, anyone can input data in a Facebook page," he said. "Some of the brightest people on the Internet are teenagers," he said. "They know the Internet better than a lot of people. Why? Because they use it all the time. "So they could develop an alibi," he said. "They watch television, the movies, there is a multitude of reasons why someone of that age would have the knowledge to do a crime like that."
That said, Reuland challenged this argument, contending,
“This implies a level of criminal genius that you would not expect from a young boy like this; he is not Dr. Evil,"...adding that the Facebook entry was just “the icing on the cake,” since his client had the other alibis.
It will certainly be interesting to see how these types of social networking evidentiary issues play out of the next couple of years.
(Hat tip to my colleague Shahram Dana for the link)