Facebook, Myspace used to acquit suspect
As one Brisbane Federal Magistrate has said time and time again: “The courts decide on evidence, not supposition”.
As many people who have ended up in the Family Law Courts have discovered: “What you say online can and will be used in a court against you.”
That both are true was amply illustrated with the acquittal in New York of Gary Waters on a driving charge, when the arresting officer’s online comments became a key issue.
According to the New York Times, the police case was that Waters had been weaving in traffic before being pulled over, and then:
Waters had been carrying a fully loaded 9mm Beretta pistol, an extra 15-bullet magazine, 27 loose rounds, and a pair of handcuffs. But the defendant’s lawyer told the jury that these items had been planted on his client as an excuse for breaking his ribs during the arrest.
The defence’s key theory was that the defendant was set up by the arresting officer, Vaughan Etienne, that the gun and ammo was set up by Etienne as an excuse for breaking his ribs during the arrest. This theory didn’t have legs until Waters’ lawyer Googled Etienne, and discovered that Etienne:
- had previously been accused of taking steroids
- the day before the arrest set his Myspace mood to “devious”
- in the leadup to the trial said on his Facebook page “Vaughan is watching ‘Training Day’ to brush up on proper police procedure.” This was the 2001 film in which Denzel Washington played a bent and murderous LA cop.
- in an arrest video, had said online: “If he wanted to tune him up some, he should have delayed cuffing him… If you were going to hit a cuffed suspect, at least get your money’s worth ’cause now he’s going to get disciplined for a faggot-ass love tap.”
Faced with that evidence, the outcome was not in doubt: Waters was acquitted. Not surprisingly, NY police are now being trained in being careful in what to say online.