/ October 16, 2009

Conviction a la My Space

Last month, we blogged about the ethical pitfalls of using social networks to gather evidence. Once such evidence has been gathered (ethically), is it admissible? According to the Indiana Supreme Court, it is.
Recently, The Wall Street Journal Law Blog featured the Indiana Supreme Court’s decision in Clark v. State, No. 43Co1-0705-FA-127 (Ind. Oct. 15, 2009) in which the court held that an accused killer’s posting on his MySpace page was admissible because it was probative of his criminal, rather than reckless, state of mind.
At trial, the prosecution read the defendant’s MySpace post to him over defense counsel’s objection. Here is the relevant quote from the post in question:

Society labels me as an outlaw and criminal and sees more and more everyday how many of the people, while growing up, and those who judge me, are dishonest and dishonorable. . .

Clark, slip op. at 4. The Indiana Supreme Court rejected the defense’s argument that the post constituted inadmissible evidence of past wrong deeds under Indiana Rule of Evidence 404(b). Rule 404(b) states that evidence of other “crimes, wrongs or acts” is inadmissible when offered to prove “the character of a person in order to show action in conformity therewith.” Ind. R. Evid. 404(b). The court reasoned that Rule 404(b) was inapplicable because the evidence did not relate to prior acts, but to his words. The court also concluded that the defendant had opened the door to character evidence by making his character a central issue at trial.

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