Recently, an Arizona court denied a defendant’s appeal in an aggravated assault case. Originally, the defendant was convicted of two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of assisting a criminal street gang by committing aggravated assault. On appeal, the defendant argued that the trial court improperly admitted evidence showing he had exchanged Facebook messages with a member of a local gang. The court reviewed the record and ultimately concluded that the evidence was properly admitted, denying the defendant’s appeal.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, three officers were dispatched to a site of reported graffiti one evening. When the officers arrived, they found graffiti symbolizing one of the gangs in the local town. As they investigated, the officers spotted two men, the defendant and one other individual, approaching them. It appeared to the officers as if both men were making gang signs with their hands.
The man walking with the defendant pulled out a gun and began firing. The officers shot back, and a chase ensued. Moments later, the officers caught the defendant after seeing him boost the second individual over a wall. Both men were caught and criminally charged.
At trial, the State made the case that the defendant was clearly part of a local gang. Part of making this case included submitting evidence of the defendant’s messages with the second individual involved in the altercation; these messages detailed the men’s activities as part of the gang at issue. At trial, the defendant objected to the use of the Facebook messages, but the court overruled the objection.
On appeal, the defendant argued that this evidence was wrongfully used against him. He maintained that the State had not authenticated the evidence, meaning it was not conclusively established that he was the author of the Facebook messages.
Considering this argument, the court examined the factors tending to show that the defendant was the person who wrote the messages in question. According to the trial record, an officer had testified that he found these messages by executing a search warrant designed to investigate the defendant. The messages included images of the defendant himself. In all of the messages, there was a consistent tone, content, and style that seemed to show a consistent exchange between the same two people.
Given these factors, the court concluded that there was enough external evidence to indicate that the messages came from the defendant. Thus, said the court, the messages were properly admitted, and the defendant’s appeal was denied.
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