Internet Searches Beginning to be Used as Evidence in Trials

Thursday, February 17, 2011
In addition to receiving national attention, the eventual trial of Jared Loughner could become an important test case for prosecutors who use a defendant’s online search history to gain a conviction and specific sentencing.
U.S. attorneys plan to introduce into evidence certain websites that Loughner visited before he shot Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 19 other people in Tucson, Arizona, killing six. The move is designed to bolster the prosecution’s case for seeking the death penalty.
While it would be a high-profile example of using online search history in a trial, the Loughner case would not be the first. Rosario DiGorolamo was forced to admit he killed his mistress after prosecutors uncovered his search history that included the string “lethal karate blows to the back of the head.” DiGorolamo was sentenced on February 11 to 25 years in prison for the 2007 murder.
Although Loughner and DiGorolamo are unsympathetic defendants, Louie Helm at Singularity Hub says that nevertheless the “implications to our privacy are serious” if lawyers and prosecutors begin to regularly use Internet searches in trials. “As our online lives become more and more public and traceable, we leave ourselves open to having private information being used publicly in court,” he writes.
-Noel Brinkerhoff


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