Thursday, July 15, 2010

Authentication of web pages

Continued from yesterday ...
From People v Beckley, et all (B212529 - Ca. 2nd Appellate District): "As evidence that the defendants belonged to the Southside Compton Crips, the prosecution offered a purported roster of the gang‘s members, including Beckley and Finn, which appeared on a web page that Detective Schoonmaker printed from the internet. The trial court admitted the evidence over the defendants‘ objections. Only Finn has pursued the admissibility of the roster on appeal. He argues that the roster was ―unauthenticated‖ because there was no evidence as to who created it, what it was intended to represent, whether it did in fact represent what it was intended to represent, and whether its creator had any basis in personal knowledge for including the names on the list."

"The printout is presumed to be an accurate representation of the web page Detective Schoonmaker found on the internet. (Evid. Code, § 1552, subd. (a) ["A printed representation of computer information or a computer program is presumed to be an accurate representation of the computer information or computer program that it purports to represent"].) The issue, however, was not whether the computer‘s printer could be trusted to reliably print out what was on the computer‘s screen or stored on some site but whether the content of what was on the site was reliable. We conclude that the evidence was insufficient to show that the writing was what it purported to be "a roster of the Southside Compton Crips. Therefore, the writing should have been excluded as unauthenticated and, therefore, irrelevant. We further conclude, however, that the error was harmless."

"Here, Schoonmaker claimed the writing was a roster of the members of the Southside Compton Crips. Schoonmaker admitted that he did not know who authored the roster but testified that he believed "that is a roster of Southside Compton Crip gang members that they themselves put together." This evidence was insufficient to authenticate the document as a roster of the Southside Compton Crips. Schoonmaker admitted that he did not know who created the list nor did he explain the basis for his assertion that the gang members "themselves put [it] together." Moreover, he offered no evidence that the person who created the list had any personal knowledge of the members of the gang or that the persons named in the list were current gang members. Accordingly, the court should have excluded the purported roster of gang members. The court‘s error, however, does not require reversal of Finn‘s conviction because the information contained on the list was cumulative. There was other evidence of Finn‘s membership in the gang, including his own admission, only one month before the shooting, made to police when interviewed in Seattle, and the testimony of Detective Valencia that Finn "has been seen and congregated with other members of this particular street gang." Evidence also showed that he had a body tattoo indicating affiliation with the gang."

... to be continued ...


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