Saturday, November 14, 2009

Facebook Status Update Successfully Used as an Alibi

In an apparent legal first, a Facebook 'status update' was successfully used as an alibi. Rodney Bradford was arrested on suspicion of robbery, but when the prosecutor was able to confirm the location the update was made from the charges were dropped. This could begin a spade of new response to the question 'can anyone confirm your whereabouts last night'? The new answer is 'yes, my Facebook (or other social media) account'. I just have one lingering question; while the prosecutor could confirm the location the update was made, how they confirm who updated it? I can easily see someone having a friend or relative update their account for them to later use as an alibi. (via)

"Where’s my pancakes, read Rodney Bradford’s Facebook page, in a message typed on Saturday, Oct. 17, at 11:49 a.m., from a computer in his father’s apartment in Harlem.

At the time, the sentence, written in indecipherable street slang, was just another navel-gazing, cryptic Facebook status update — words that were gobbledygook to anyone besides Mr. Bradford.

But when Mr. Bradford, a skinny, short 19-year-old resident of the Farragut Houses, was arrested the next day as a suspect in a robbery, the words took on a level of importance that no one in their wildest dreams — least of all Mr. Bradford — could have imagined. They became his alibi.

His defense lawyer, Robert Reuland, told a Brooklyn assistant district attorney, Lindsay Gerdes, about the Facebook entry, which was made at the time of the robbery. The district attorney subpoenaed Facebook to verify that the status update had actually been typed from a computer located at 71 West 118th Street in Harlem, as Mr. Bradford said. When that was confirmed, the charges were dropped.

“This is the first case that I’m aware of in which a Facebook update has been used as alibi evidence,” said John Browning, a lawyer and member of the Dallas Bar Association who studies social networking and the law. “We are going to see more of that because of how prevalent social networking has become.”

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