January 25, 2012
Facebook Boasts/Taunts Undermine the Legal Defense for a Fight at a House Party--In re DLW
By Eric Goldman
In the Matter of the Welfare of: D.L.W., Child, 2012 WL 171412 (Minn. App. Ct. Jan. 23, 2012)
The opinion indicates the following facts: BP supplied DLW with $200 of dope for resale. Before DLW could move the merchandise, the police seized the stash. The supplier-dealer contract apparently did not allocate this risk of loss, so BP took the position that DLW still owed $200. DLW either was unwilling or unable to pay. The parties then threatened each other via Facebook.
Subsequently, at a house party, BP and DLW got into a fight. Exactly what happened in the fight is the key issue. BP admitted he was "hovering over" DLW and that he administered "a pretty good beating" to DLW. DLW told the police he didn't fight back. However, after the fight, BP went to the hospital with 7 stab wounds. DLW was later found with a pocket knife that had BP's DNA on it.
In court, DLW claimed he didn't fight back and floated a self-defense claim. In response, prosecutors sought to introduce DLW's Facebook post made one hour after the fight:
D—n, I love drunk fight. Owee. I feel like a country boy in a bar fight. Got to love my bois. Ha! round 2. Let's do it, p-ssy. I got two days and that's enough to cause a little raucous.
Dude, Alicabeth, sorry for fighting at ur crib. Liquor before beer. You're in the clear. Well, that's a understatement. Ha! F—k you. The streets can see what you can't see. [B.P.], you're a p-ssy b—ch who can't fight worth sh-t. You f—king cracker a—b—ch. 4 on 8. D—n, that's sad. All your bois ended up on the ground. Ha! Get at me. You know where to find me. Ya'll make me laugh.
[B.P.], you are the definition of a white b—ch. Come see me. 85th Place North. Let's get it, p-ssy.
And just like last time, you won't get out of ur d—n car when my bois surround the car. Not a threat. Just a promise. You're guna get f—ked up. No lie. LOL.
Although I don't speak this language, the prosecutors asserted that these:
were not the words of a young man who just took a beating, didn't fight back and lost a fight....since we know that [B.P.] was over [appellant] and [appellant] was on the ground while [B.P.] was punching him, the only way that [appellant] could have felt that he won that fight was because he fought dirty, and he stabbed [B.P.].
The court allows the evidence, holding it is both potentially relevant and not unfairly prejudicial, and thus upholding the jury ruling of criminal assault. This suggests a new protip: if you're involved in a fight, check with your lawyer before discussing said fight on Facebook.
Compare People v. Bignone, another case involving house brawls and Facebook posts.
Related blog posts on social media evidence undermining legal arguments:
* Social Media Photos Foil Yet Another Litigant--Clement v. Johnson's Warehouse
* YouTube Video Impeaches Witness' Credibility--Ensign Yacht v. Arrigoni
* Facebook Entries Negate Car Crash Victims' Physical Injury Claims
* Contrary MySpace Evidence Strikes a Litigant Again--HAC, Inc. v. Box
* MySpace Postings Foil Another Litigant--Sedie v. U.S.
* Disturbingly Humorous MySpace Posts Used as Impeaching Evidence in Spousal Abuse Case--Embry v. State
* Latest Example of Social Networking Site Evidence Contradicting In-Court Testimony--People v. Franco
Posted by Eric at January 25, 2012 09:21 AM | Evidence/Discovery
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