By Sheriff Jim Wilson, Shooting Illustrated
While keeping up with a recent murder trial, I noticed that the prosecution introduced into evidence a number of the defendant’s texts and emails, along with a fair amount of overwhelming physical evidence. In this case, the defendant was found guilty and sentenced to a lengthy prison term.
Armed citizens are often admonished to be careful what they say to investigators in the aftermath of a defensive shooting. They’re also often encouraged to find ways to de-escalate or exit a dangerous situation. It’s even better if one can avoid a potentially high-risk scenario at all. That same kind of presence of mind ought to extend to your communications as well. Armed citizens may not be aware that investigators can also get a court order that allows them to examine all text messages, emails, and other electronic media. In some cases, they can also use private conversations that the defendant has had with others.
Consequently, a person needs to be very careful what they post and say. Posting on social media, late at night–especially after consuming adult libations–may not be a very good idea. Boasting about what you will do if/when a person breaks into your home may be a real mistake. That harmless joke that you posted may not seem quite so harmless when it is read to a jury.
Most citizens think that text messages and emails are private conversations and should be treated as such. The simple fact is that, under certain circumstances, such is simply not the case. Comments that we make, electronically and verbally, may be allowed in court to show our true motive or intent. Trying to convince a jury that a joke was nothing more than a joke is a real risk and it makes your defense attorney’s job more difficult.
As with anytime I talk about the law, you should remember that I am not an attorney. Therefore, I encourage each of you to discuss this and other defensive issues with a criminal defense attorney at your earliest opportunity. It would be a sad situation if something you posted in a light moment, or without thinking it through, causes you to face serious legal consequences one day.