State v. Clemons, 274 N.C. App. 401 (Dec. 1, 2020)

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.