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Griffin v. State - 419 Md. 343, 19 A.3d 415 (2011)

Rule:

The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims, to insure trustworthiness. Authenticating electronically stored information presents a myriad of concerns because technology changes so rapidly and is often new to many judges. Moreover, the "complexity" or "novelty" of electronically stored information, with its potential for manipulation, requires greater scrutiny of the foundational requirements than letters or other paper records, to bolster reliability.

Facts:

Petitioner Antoine Levar Griffin was charged in numerous counts with the shooting death of Darvell Guest at Ferrari’s bar in Perryville, Cecil County. During his trial, the State sought to introduce several pages printed from the MySpace profile of Jessica Barber (Griffin’s girlfriend) to demonstrate that the latter had allegedly threatened another witness called by the State. The State attempted to authenticate the pages through the testimony of the lead investigator in the case. The defense counsel objected to the admission of the pages allegedly printed from the aforementioned MySpace profile, because the State could not sufficiently establish a “connection” between the profile and posting, and Ms. Barber, and substantively, the State could not say with any certainty that the purported “threat” had any impact on the witness’s testimony. The trial judge admitted the pages printed from said MySpace profile as evidence, thereby leading to the conviction of petitioner. On appeal, petitioner sought reversal of his conviction, contending that the trial judge abused his discretion in admitting, without proper authentication, what the State alleged were several pages printed from Barber’s MySpace profile.

Issue:

Did the trial court err in admitting a page printed from a MySpace profile alleged to be that of Petitioner's girlfriend?

Answer:

Yes.

Conclusion:

The appellate court held that the trial judge abused his discretion in admitting the pages allegedly printed from Barber’s MySpace profile as evidence since they were not properly authenticated pursuant to Md. R. 5-901. According to the appellate court the picture of the girlfriend, coupled with her birth date and location, were not sufficient "distinctive characteristics" on a MySpace profile to authenticate its printout.

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