Criminal Justice

Ind. High Court Allows MySpace Entry as Evidence in Murder Trial

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Saying that statements made on social networking sites are admissible as evidence of a defendant’s character, the Indiana Supreme Court on Thursday upheld the conviction of a Northern Indiana man who beat his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter to death in 2007.

Ian Clark, a confessed drunken “stoner,” had appealed his conviction, protesting the prosecution’s use of his MySpace page to show his character, the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette reported. Allowing the statements to be admitted was a violation of the Indiana rules of evidence, Clark claimed.

Not so, ruled the state’s high court. The court reasoned that because Clark took the stand to say that he wasn’t guilty of murdering Samatha Muchowicz, but rather guilty of her reckless homicide, he opened the door for prosecutors to use his MySpace posts to rebut his character.

“Once Clark took the stand to testify along these lines, it was proper to permit the prosecution to confront Clark with his own seemingly prideful declarations that rebutted his defense,” Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepherd wrote. “Clark’s MySpace declarations shared much with his boast to the police after he killed Samantha: ‘It’s only a C Felony. I can beat this.’ ”

The Journal Gazette quotes Valparaiso University law professor Bruce Berner, who notes that the case isn’t “at all unusual because of the law…Except this guy spouts off on a MySpace page instead of to a guy at a bar. … The format is different, … but other than that, this is classic prosecution rebutting a defendant who put his own character at issue.”

Hat tip: WSJ Law Blog.

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