In the early days of police surveillance, so-called gangsters were known to be on the lookout for electronic bugs and potential informers wearing a wire. Today, New Jersey law enforcement undoubtedly still uses electronic surveillance, but increasingly local law enforcement is making use of cell phone text messages and Facebook.
A recent news article listed several examples of individuals who are facing criminal charges, including felonies, due in part to the damaging evidence found in text messages and Facebook postings. It is wise for everyone to keep in mind that once you hit the "send" button, your electronic message is out of your control.
The first incident involves a high school student who sent a text message to a friend saying that he was going to rob someone. A short time later, the intended victim became a real victim, when he was killed while being robbed for marijuana. The high school student sent another text to his friend, asking that the friend delete the earlier text message. Instead, both text messages became evidence in a murder trial in Monmouth County. The student, now 23 years old, was sentenced to 40 years in prison for murder and armed robbery.
The second incident also involves high school students, these located in Old Bridge. According to the police, a number of students were out being wild when they encountered a man on a walk with his family. They beat the man, who died of his injuries. Later, members of the group described the incident on their Facebook pages. Several students have been charged and the case has not yet gone to trial.
When damaging comments are made via text, tweet, and email or on a social media site like Facebook, it is difficult for the defense to prove that those words do not belong to the sender. Increasingly, these electronic communications are finding their way into our lives, and into the courtroom.
Source: WLTX, "Facebook and Texting New Star Witnesses in Court," Derry London, March 15, 2012