Steubenville Rape Evidence Via Social Media Called “Wave of the Future”


Even before the rape trial of two Steubenville, Oh., teens, they had been convicted on social media, says USA Today. Text messages, photos, and videos from a drunken party incriminated them. Other teens at the party shared videos and comments about the victim on Facebook and Twitter, as well as via graphic text messages. Those postings spread beyond the high school students’ circle, with individuals and groups, such as the hackitivist collective Anonymous, publicizing the night’s events on the Internet. “You were your own accuser, through the social media that you chose to publish your criminal conduct on,” the victim’s mother told Trent Mays, 17, and Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, after they were found guilty by a judge. The courtroom has become a digital domain, with text messages and social media posts increasingly used as evidence. The growing use of smartphones and the rise of Instagram, Twitter and Facebook have helped prosecutors and defense lawyers make their cases. “It’s the wave of the future,” says Harvard Law professor and criminal defense lawyer Alan Dershowitz. “It’s going to change the way evidence is gathered in cases. It’s already happening.” On Monday, authorities arrested two eastern Ohio girls suspected of making social media threats against the rape victim in the Steubenville case. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said the girls posted threatening Facebook and Twitter comments on Sunday.

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