Social Media in the Courtroom. Your Own Words Can Hang YOU!
Social media has become such an all-encompassing phenomena that it’s not surprising that it has come to the forefront of some high profile criminal cases. One such case is the recent Steubenville rape trial of two Ohio high school football players who were accused of raping a 16 year-old drunk girl.
On March 17th the two teenagers, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, were convicted of the rape which took place in during a party in August of 2012.
During the trial, evidence presented against the two teens not only included text messages sent during the assault, but also included photos, videos and comments from other teens at the party posted on social media platforms Facebook and Twitter.
After the teens were declared “delinquent” (the juvenile version of a guilty verdict) the victim’s mother addressed the teens, saying in part: “You were your own accuser, through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on.”
Even Judge Thomas Lipps, who presided over the trial, called the actions of Trent Mays more egregious than that of his co-defendant, Ma’lik Richmond, because Mays sent text messages and took photos of the victim during the assault. While both juveniles received a minimum of 1 year in a juvenile detention facility, with the possibility of being held until they turn 21, he gave Trent Mays an additional year on his sentence.
Renowned Harvard Law School professor and criminal defense attorney, Alan Dershowitz, called the social media evidence in this case “the wave of the future,” saying “It’s going to change the way evidence is gathered in cases. It’s already happening.”
Although this was a high-profile case that received world-wide attention, it wasn’t the first criminal case that included social media evidence – and it surely won’t be the last!
Until next time, I’m Attorney Francine Ward helping you protect what’s yours. Join my conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or in one of my LinkedIn groups.