Saturday, October 1, 2011

Authentic Text Message?

Recently in Pennsylvania, its Supreme Court ruled that an “unauthenticated text message” is not admissible as evidence in trial, this was the basis for granting Amy Kock a new trial. This was the ruling of the court on the admissibility of a text message offered to prove the intent of the accuse d (Amy Koch) to distribute illegal drugs which was found in her possession. A three-judge panel found that it was not shown that Koch wrote the said text FOUND in her phone and that the texts constituted inadmissible hearsay.

Although Koch admitted to owning the phone, which was seized at her home during a drug search, the judges found that the defense successfully argued that the state lacked evidence tying her to the text. Squarely put, ownership does not equate to authorship. The Court disregarded the ruling of the trial court that doubt as to authorship went into the weight of the evidence and not its admissibility. It took into account that the same phone could be used by different people and there is that likely possibility that she was not the one who authored it.

The Court likewise rules that the trial court erred in admitting the text message as evidence as not hearsay. The defense accordingly offered the text message of the text message for the “to prove the fact that these things were said on this phone”, but the Court said that the relevance of the text message for the state was to show that Koch had the intent to distribute/sell which depended on the truth of the text.

I tried to look for a Philippine case where the said ruling would be relevant. I found ANG v CA (GR 182835, 20 Apr 2010). In this case petitioner Ang was found guilty for violating the anti-VAWC law for sending several multi media messages to her ex-girlfriend, the picture was of a naked woman where the face of Irish Sagud (ex-girlfriend) was super imposed. An entrapment operation was planned to arrest him. A text message was sent by the police through Sagud’s phone to the same number which sent the nude MMS, setting up a meeting. On that day Ang indeed appeared and was arrested. The phone seized from him during the entrapment was used as evidence against him.

Comparing the two cases, and applying the recent Pennsylvania SC decision, Ang has a good chance of not being convicted, as the prosecution from a reading of the case has not actually established that he sent the MMS to Sagud. However, as a defense Ang actually admitted to having sent the MMS to Sagud claiming that it was sent to him by an un-indentified number who was harassing Sagud and he merely forwarded the said MMS to her. He did not present the said number in Court.

Lesson learned. DENY. DENY. DENY.  So how do we prove authorship then?

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