Jurors were texting, making cell phone calls and discussing the case with a bailiff during deliberations; and if that wasn't enough, a prosecutor posted a poem on Facebook with details about the case which was intended to be sung to the theme song from Gilligan's Island.
Some of these shenanigans resulted in a mistrial.
This is a criminal trial, folks. Somebody's liberty is at stake! I'm by no means a bleeding-heart (after all, I clerked at the L.A. District Attorney's Office during law school), but place yourself in the position of the defendant. This isn't a trial – it's a three-ring circus!
It also begs the question; who lost control of this situation?
“But you can just call me FBI.”
Well, they’ve been hanging out in chat rooms for years…it shouldn’t be surprising that they’re doing the same with social networks.
And you thought you only had to worry about an ex checking your Facebook page…
At this point, I'm about ready to throw in the towel and start a "Social Networking Idiot of the Month" post. I try not to get into the habit of using strong verbiage like this too often, but really…
A drunk-driving 17-year-old was involved in a vehicle crash that killed her 20-year-old passenger.
Quoting directly from the The Buffalo News article:
"The Buffalo News has learned that Sullivan went to Florida a month after the crash and
posted a photo on her Facebook Web page captioned, "Drunk in Florida."" (italics/bold added).
The judge found this conduct troubling, sentenced her to six months in jail and stated that posting the Facebook photo was the reason.
No further comment is necessary, especially since it would contain more strong verbiage…
[As much as I don't like to overuse 'dark humor' for something as egregious as this case, nevertheless, I have to pose the question: How many of you clued-in to my 'half-a-brain' illustration?]
I'm rarely surprised by the things I read. However, while reading an article on Time.com about something I've covered several times, jurors using PDAs during trials, a portion of the last paragraph floored me:
"The temptation to hop online is so great, and the habit so ingrained,
that, as Keene notes, a burglar in Pennsylvania ended up getting caught
because he stopped to look at his Facebook page on the victim's
computer, leaving an online trail for the police to follow."
Granted, assuming the burglar wasn't an IT expert, he wouldn't know he was leaving an online trail, but you'll recall I also posted about a felon who boasted on MySpace about committing a murder.
Maybe I've been discounting the possibility that there is a positive side to social networking. After all, we know that most people can't keep their mouths shut, and in fact, if all bad-actors simply didn't talk (the opposite of what we always see on TV, where everybody talks and talks and talks before asking for a lawyer) the reality is, a much lower percentage of crimes would be solved.
I'm curious, going forward, to see if we start experiencing a marked increase in crimes being solved through this type of evidence. It's something to watch in 2010.
Is the car of sanity creeping into the intersection of the legal profession and social networking? (Cut me some slack here, will ya? I haven't posted in almost a week and this is what happens when I'm prevented from using metaphors for too long…). This article from the Associated Press, "Fla. judges, lawyers must 'unfriend' on Facebook", suggests the answer is 'yes'.
I've rambled on ad nauseum about people in the legal profession and social networking and I'm not going to pontificate on it again (although I suppose Sunday would be the perfect day for that…) but my reasoning is simple; you never know what the future holds. Your legal friend today may be your legal foe tomorrow.
What else do you need to know?
Remember how I went on and on about the fact that what you do and say in your personal life (particularly online, after all this is an e-discovery blog) may become relevant in a legal proceeding? Remember how I told you that there are several cases pending that might completely change the definition of privacy? And remember when I nagged you like your (Please fill-in-the-blank here; mother, grandmother, psychiatrist, attorney, etc. Hey – I'm not dumb enough to actually name someone and make them mad at me!) when I implored you to stop making those inappropriate posts on Twitter/Facebook/MySpace, etc.?
Well, this headline says it all:
Judge: Buffalo Grove trustee can get Web poster's ID
For those who are pressed for time, this is the relevant portion:
Village Trustee Lisa Stone should be told the name of the man she
accuses of making defamatory online comments about her 15-year-old son,
a judge ruled Monday in a case being watched for its Internet privacy
Cook County Circuit Judge Jeffrey Lawrence ordered that the identity
of a person known online as Hipcheck16 be turned over to Stone."
We can debate the Constitutional implications of the ruling itself, but truly, this goes all the way back to the 'shouting fire in a crowded theater' argument. Post-mortems don't interest me much; I deal with what is, and what will be, not what was. To paraphrase a certain election campaign, it's about the future, stupid!
On a fairly regular basis, I'm accused of being "Chicken Little". Perhaps my detractors are right. Maybe it's because I was a boy scout when I was a kid (Be Prepared!) or perhaps it's from all of those years protecting my clients from what might happen, not just what I could identify as likely to happen.
If I weren't doing what I'm doing, maybe I'd have become an actuary (I'd say 'bean-counter', but for those who know this blog well, the only beans I'd be counting are coffee beans…).
It sucks being the wet blanket. It sucks constantly warning people about risks. But here's the thing; technology is moving much faster than our ability to understand what we're doing with it. There used to be an admonishment; when angry, count to ten before acting. Now, not only do we not count to ten, we immediately grab our always-within-reach Blackberry and post on Facebook!
So, here's a question for you to ponder over the weekend; do you think Hipcheck16 wishes I'd have been his wet blanket?