I was browsing the web earlier today and saw a CBS News article about the “thrill kill” that happened last week. The article mentioned that one of the accused tweeted about killing someone, three days before he supposedly committed this crime. He tweeted under a handle @Jamesakabug. This particular defendant also tweeted about being a thug and about Firearms. Even though the tweets were not addressed towards any individual victim you can be sure the district attorney will fight to have them admitted as evidence. In Massachusetts there is no doubt in my mind that most judges would permit the prosecution to introduce this as evidence. Massachusetts Appellate Courts have ruled that in cases involving Firearms, a person’s statement about guns, can in many contexts be admissible to show that this person had familiarity with Firearms. While the statement will likely be admitted with a limiting instruction the damage is still done.
This is not an isolated case in which a criminal defendant published something on social media. On August 9th of this year the Bradenton Herald published an article about a Miami man who posted details about killing his wife on Facebook. Just two days ago police in Long Island were able to charge a man for Statutory Rape after seizing Facebook posts between the twenty five year old man and his thirteen year old girlfriend. Some Ohio high school football players got themselves in some hot water after posting a video and pictures of a girl who, while passed out had been the victim of a Sexual Assault and possibly a Rape on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. A man from Hawaii had a drinking and driving posted showing him having a beer while driving and talking to a camera for five minutes.
As a Massachusetts Criminal Lawyer I see more and more evidence being used against my clients that stemmed from their ill-advised posts. There is however much more to this rising trend. I have some clients who have been framed by social media posts. How does this happen? Well in this case the damaging posts were created with my client’s cell phone. Most people now carry smart phones, especially young people. They all have Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Google+ apps. They leave these apps in a “signed in” mode. Anyone who accesses one of these phones can go right to the app and post as if it were the person who owned the social media page making the comment. In several of these cases witnesses were located and provided the defense with evidence of sabotaging the social media pages. Here is how else social media confessions can help the defense. There are people other than the accused who take credit for the commission of the crime. Their admission is admissible evidence at trial and if there exists some corroboration of the statement a jury might believe that confession credible evidence favoring the defense. Also, witnesses sometimes boast about their value to one side or another through social media outlets. The bottom line is this; social media now plays a significant role in Massachusetts Criminal Defense strategy, a role that should be embraced by the defense.