Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

Smith's Criminal Case Compendium

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This compendium includes significant criminal cases by the U.S. Supreme Court & N.C. appellate courts, Nov. 2008 – Present. Selected 4th Circuit cases also are included.

Jessica Smith prepared case summaries Nov. 2008-June 4, 2019; later summaries are prepared by other School staff.

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E.g., 10/21/2021
E.g., 10/21/2021

In this violation of a DVPO case, screenshots of Facebook posts were authenticated by sufficient circumstantial evidence showing that the screenshots in fact depicted Facebook posts and that the comments in the post were made by the defendant such that the screenshots were properly admitted into evidence.  Shortly before the defendant was scheduled to be released from prison, the victim renewed a DVPO prohibiting him from contacting her.  Soon after his release, the victim began receiving phone calls from a blocked number and Facebook comments from her daughter’s account that the victim believed were written by the defendant rather than her daughter.  These communications were the basis for the DVPO violation at issue. 

The court first reviewed precedent to determine that the question of whether evidence has been sufficiently authenticated is subject to de novo review on appeal.  The court then held that when screenshots of social media comments are used as they were here – to show both the fact of the communication and its purported author, the screenshots must be authenticated both as photographs and written statements.  The victim’s testimony that she took the screenshots of her Facebook account was sufficient to authenticate the images as photographs.  The victim’s testimony of receiving letters from the defendant while he was in prison and distinctive phone calls from a blocked number after his release, together with evidence of the defendant’s access to the daughter’s Facebook account was sufficient to authenticate the comments as written statements potentially made by the defendant such that admission of the screenshots into evidence was proper.

Judges Bryant and Berger concurred in result only, without separate opinions.

State v. Ford, 245 N.C. App. 510 (Feb. 16, 2016)

In this voluntary manslaughter case, where the defendant’s pit bull attacked and killed the victim, the trial court did not err by admitting as evidence screenshots from the defendant’s webpage over the defendant’s claim that the evidence was not properly authenticated. The State presented substantial evidence that the website was actually maintained by the defendant. Specifically, a detective found the MySpace page in question with the name “Flexugod/7.” The page contained photos of the defendant and of the dog allegedly involved in the incident. Additionally, the detective found a certificate awarded to the defendant on which the defendant is referred to as “Flex.” He also found a link to a YouTube video depicting the defendant’s dog. This evidence was sufficient to support a prima facie showing that the MySpace page was the defendant’s webpage. It noted: “While tracking the webpage directly to defendant through an appropriate electronic footprint or link would provide some technological evidence, such evidence is not required in a case such as this, where strong circumstantial evidence exists that this webpage and its unique content belong to defendant.”

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