Monday, December 9, 2013
Text(ual) Analysis: Court of Appeals of Minnesota Addresses Admissibility of Forwarded Text Messages
Minnesota Rule of Evidence 901(a) provides that
The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.
Meanwhile, Minnesota Rule of Evidence 1004(1) provides that
The original is not required, and other evidence of the contents of a writing, recording, or photograph is admissible if...[a]ll originals are lost or have been destroyed, unless the proponent lost or destroyed them in bad faith; or
So, assume that an alleged victim finds text messages on the defendant's phone, forwards them to her phone and e-mail account, and the forwards them to the police. Should the court deem these text messages admissible? That was the question faced by the Court of Appeals of Minnesota in State v. Anderson, 2013 WL 6223399 (Minn.App. 2013).
In Anderson, William Maurice Anderson was convicted of first-degree criminal sexual conduct based upon acts allegedly committed against twelve year-old H.M., the daughter of his wife. After he was convicted, Anderson appealed, claiming, inter alia, "that the district court abused its discretion by admitting text messages that J.A. found on Anderson's phone, which she then forwarded to her phone and e-mail account, and ultimately to the police."
The Court of Appeals of Minnesota disagreed, concluding that
The district court has “considerable discretion” under Minnesota Rule of Evidence 901 in determining whether evidence has been authenticated....“The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.” Minn. R. Evid. 901(a). The foundation for authentication may be laid by testimony of a witness “that a matter is what it is claimed to be.” Id. at (b)(1). Under Minnesota Rule of Evidence 1004(1), “The original is not required, and other evidence of the contents of a writing, recording, or photograph is admissible if...[a]ll originals are lost or have been destroyed, unless the proponent lost or destroyed them in bad faith.”
Applying these principles, we conclude that the district court properly admitted the text messages into evidence. H.M. was shown copies of all of the text messages that were later admitted into evidence, and she stated that she remembered receiving all but one. Concerning that one text message, H.M. stated that she had received similar text messages from Anderson on the same subject. J.A. explained in her testimony that she discovered the text messages between Anderson and H.M. on Anderson's phone. She testified that Anderson was the only person who sent text messages from his personal phone and that she did not alter any of the text messages in the process of forwarding them to herself and to the police.
Anderson cross-examined both H.M. and J.A. about whether the text messages were altered before being sent to the police. Because the state properly laid the foundation for and authenticated the text messages, Anderson's argument about reliability goes to the weight of the text messages as evidence against him, not to their admissibility....Given this record, the district court did not abuse its discretion by admitting the text messages into evidence.