Court Admits MySpace Profile
I always tell audiences at seminars that postings on social network sites can make for some pretty damning evidence. A Maryland appellate court recently ruled on a case that helps me make this point. The case was the second murder trial of Antoine Griffin, aka “Boozy” (I do civil work and we never get clients with great nicknames). Griffin was accused of murdering Darvell Guest in the women’s restroom of Ferrari’s Bar. Griffin’s first trial ended in a mistrial. At the first trial, a witness named Dennis Gibbs testified that he did not see Griffin pursue Guest into the bathroom. At the second trial, Gibbs changed his story. He explained that he lied at the first trial because Griffin’s girlfriend, Jessica Barber, had threatened him. To corroborate that testimony, the prosecution sought to introduce into evidence a printout of what the prosecution contended was the girlfriend’s MySpace profile page. The profile page was for a user named “SISTASOULJAH” and carried this helpful bit of advice: “JUST REMEMBER, SNITCHES GET STITCHES!! U KNOW WHO YOU ARE!!” The question for the court was whether the MySpace profile could be “authenticated” – i.e. was “SISTASOULJAH” Jessica Barber. The court noted that there was very little guidance on the issue – these waters are still a little uncharted. But it applied existing evidence rules and found its answer. Writings can be authenticated by the circumstances and the content of the writing itself. Here the profile page featured a photo of Ms. Barber embracing Mr. Griffin. It contained a reference to “Boozy” – the nickname Ms. Barber gave Mr. Griffin. It listed SISTASOULJAH’s birthday as October 2, 1983 – Ms. Barber’s birthday. It noted that SISTASOULJAH had two “beautiful children” – the same as Ms. Barber. In short, the court was satisfied that the prosecution had produced enough evidence linking Ms. Barber to SISTASOULJAH, and it permitted the printout to come in. And Boozy was convicted.