Social Media in the Judicial System

Social media increasingly permeates our everyday lives. Two recent stories reflect just how social media in general, and Facebook in particular, have begun to play increasingly larger roles in judicial system.

According to the Houston Press, Facebook will help prosecute a quartet of individuals allegedly involved in over thirty burglaries in the Heights neighborhood of Houston. After police arrested the four following a tip from an eyewitness, investigators discovered the following remarks on the alleged burglars’ Facebook pages: “Another day another Dollar” and “H.O.E…Heights Ova Everythang!” The comments appeared after various burglaries that the group had apparently been involved in.

And in a Virginia resident’s wrongful death suit against the driver of a truck that overturned and killed his wife, Facebook played a crucial role in cutting that resident’s $10 million verdict in half. The widower’s lawyer discovered a picture of the widower on Facebook taken after the accident in which he was with his friends, drinking beer, and wearing a t-shirt with the following caption, “I [heart] hot moms.” When the defendant requested the contents of the widower’s Facebook account, the widower’s attorney told the widower to “clean up” his Facebook page. Further, that attorney came up with a scheme to take down or deactivate the widower’s Facebook account so that he could respond that he had no Facebook page on the date the defendant requested the Facebook content. As a result, after the jury rendered their verdict, the Judge cut it in half and penalized the widower and his attorney a combined $722,000 in sanctions.