Posts Tagged ‘evidence’

Taking Judicial Notice of Blogs

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Daylight exterior

This is the Stanley Mosk Courthouse in Los Angeles. Under the Ragland case, my picture of it here does not permit it to take judicial notice of itself. (Photo: EEJ)

A new California case concerns whether a court can take judicial notice of a blog.

When a court takes “judicial notice” of something, it gives a party a pass on proving something with testimony. So, for instance, you can get a court to take judicial notice of the fact that November 6, 2012 was a Tuesday. You won’t have to produce a witness to testify as to that.

So, how about taking judicial notice of blogs?

This won’t come as a shocker. A court can take judicial notice of the existence of a blog, but not the truth of factual assertions made on the blog. (Can you imagine if it were otherwise!?)

Here’s what the court said in Ragland v. U.S. Bank National Association, 209 Cal.App.4th 182 (Cal. App. 2012):

As evidentiary support for the request for judicial notice, Ragland offers 12 exhibits, [including] printed pages from various Web sites and blogs (exhibits 2–6 and 8–12)[.] Ragland’s request for judicial notice requires us … to take judicial notice of, and accept as true, the contents of those exhibits. While we may take judicial notice of the existence of … Web sites, and blogs, we may not accept their contents as true.

Id. at 193.

Presumably, the court can also take judicial notice not only of the existence of the blog, but also the fact that certain statements exist on the blog. That makes sense, since the judge and all parties can independently access a blog just by using the internet.

But blogs can and do change. There’s clearly a separate question as to what is required as proof that a blog said a certain thing on a certain date. That presumably requires testimony in the form of an affidavit or declaration – though that’s not hard to do.

ALCU to Sue Baltimore Police Over On-the-Spot Video Seizure and Deletion

Thursday, August 18th, 2011

Badge of the Baltimore Police Department and still from YouTube video of police incident at 2010 Preakness Stakes

The Baltimore Sun reports that the American Civil Liberties Union is threatening to sue Baltimore police for illegally seizing a man’s camera and deleting videos from it at the 2010 Preakness Stakes. This could be an important case for citizen journalists and bloggers.

The man, Christopher Sharp, was taking video with his cell phone of what appears to be the use of excessive force in the arrest of a woman, a friend of Sharp’s, at the prestigious thoroughbred horse race. According to the ACLU press release:

[A]fter Sharp recorded the police beating, he was detained and harangued by police officers, who demanded that he surrender his cellphone as “evidence”. Sharp politely declined, but police continued to demand that he give up his phone. Fearing arrest, he finally handed over the phone to an officer who assured him he would simply download the videos for evidentiary purposes, then return the phone to Sharp. Instead, police destroyed the beating videos and all other videos it contained – about two dozen in all – before returning the phone to Sharp.

Another video of the same event shows the bleeding woman pinned down on the floor of the Pimlico Race Course clubhouse as a crowd watches in a wide circle. One police officer can be heard asking “Why’re they taking pictures?” and saying “Get him,” directing a fellow police officers to the location of a camera-operating onlooker.

Also in that video, you can hear another police officer making false assertions about the law, saying that it is “illegal to record anybody’s voice or anything else in the state of Maryland.” In order for Maryland’s wiretapping law to apply, there would have to be a reasonable expectation of privacy. It would be beyond absurd to argue that the police had a reasonable expectation of privacy while arresting a woman in the middle of huge crowd at one of the biggest sporting events of the year. Even if there had been no crowd, the law should, in my opinion, construe an implied lack of expectation of privacy in all encounters between police, in the course of their duites, and members of the public.

Putting aside the legal, constitutional, and political questions, there is the simple sad fact that Sharp lost a lot of video footage that was tremendously valuable to him.

“I’m heartbroken over the videos I lost of my son and I doing things together,” said Sharp in the press release. “The videos were keepsakes of memories like his soccer and basketball games, times at the beach and the Howard County fair. It kills me that the police acted as if it was okay for them to could just wipe out some of my fondest memories. I used to trust police, but now I don’t anymore, because of how wrongly the police acted here, and because it seemed like this was just routine procedure for them.”

Conviction Upheld for Blogger/Stalker

Monday, May 31st, 2010

A just released opinion from the Second District of the California Court of Appeals makes for some terrifying reading.

In People v. Costales, the intermediate California appeals court upheld a two-year sentence for Michigan resident George Christian Costales, who used his blog to document his obsession with Stacy B., a musician maintaining a MySpace page. Costales eventually used his blog to document his cross-country road trip to attempt to visit Stacy B. in person in California.

On appeal, Costales contended there was insufficient evidence to show that he had made a “credible threat,” required for a stalking conviction under California Penal Code § 646.9. The statute defines “credible threat” as “a verbal or written threat … or a threat implied by a pattern of conduct or a combination of verbal, written, or electronically communicated statements and conduct, made with the intent to place the person that is the target of the threat in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family, and made with the apparent ability to carry out the threat … ”

The court held that Costales’s blogging provided all the evidence that was necessary for the conviction.

The opinion is here. Some excerpts:

George Christian Costales appeals a judgment following his conviction of stalking. (Pen.Code, § 646.9, subd. (a).) We conclude, among other things, that: 1) substantial evidence supports the judgment, and 2) Costales has not shown that his two-year prison sentence was retaliation for his decision to proceed to trial instead of making a plea to the charges. We affirm. …

Stacy B. was a musician who used an Internet program called MySpace to “market” her music. She had “an open profile” to allow the public to go to her site. She began receiving disturbing e-mails from Costales, a stranger from Michigan.

Let me just pause for a moment to note that it is interesting that the Court of Appeals put the word “market” in quotes – as if MySpace is somehow a silly way to go about marketing music. Also, judging by her  MySpace page, it looks like she still is a musician. It says she’s currently in the studio. At any rate, the court continued:

Stacy B. was so disturbed by the content of his messages that she used a security feature on her MySpace page to block him from leaving his profile and his comments. Costales discovered that she had blocked his access to her site. He posted a message stating, among other things, “[S]he has blocked me and has never uttered even one word to me. I do believe she loves me…. [¶] … Oh, hell, am I a f***ing stalker ? I visit her page every day. In my mind she’s the perfect woman for me.” He created new profiles to avoid the blocking mechanism and continued to send messages.

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