Facebook Evidence Suppressed in Skater Brawl Prosecution–People v. Bignone

People v. Bignone, 2011 WL 6091756 (Cal. App. Ct. Dec. 8, 2011). Some background on the case.

In my house, it’s not a party until someone spills, but my parties apparently are comparatively tame. This case involves a wild house party in tony Palos Verdes Estates which went downhill after a group of skaters arrived, apparently unwanted. During/after a “melee”, where [t]here was just a bunch of fists flying” and one of the skater buddies allegedly yelled “Fuck [Defendant]”, the defendant threw a beer bottle at the victim Smith, hitting Smith in the face and sending him to the hospital to get 34 stitches.

The jury convicted the defendant of assault with a deadly weapon (the beer bottle). The defendant claimed self-defense and appealed claiming the court improperly excluded Facebook evidence that the victim and one bro like to yell “Fuck you” to random people and a third bro self-acknowledged that he likes to be an asshole. The appeals court agreed that the evidence was properly excluded:

That evidence, at best, showed that the three young men in question may generally have been offensive, rude, and obnoxious, but it did little to show defendant’s specific intent toward Smith on the night in question. Indeed, there was no showing that defendant ever witnessed any of the conduct in issue or that he was otherwise aware of it. None of that conduct constituted specific threats of violence, much less threats of violence toward defendant. Similarly, that conduct did not suggest or imply that the three men in question had reputations for violence in the community. Moreover, defendant did not offer the Facebook evidence to support his state of mind, but rather as credibility and demeanor evidence. Thus, it was reasonable for the trial court to conclude that the evidence merely suggested that the three men were “jerks” and that the evidence was therefore more prejudicial than probative.

If there were actually a defense that a victim’s Facebook page demonstrated the defendant’s jerkiness, California prisons would be a lot less crowded.