Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Circumstantial Authentication of Email Evidence — Admission that Emails Were Sent + Content of Emails + Email Address Tied to Recipient by His Business Website

The defendant in United States v. Lane, 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 65828 (S.D. Cal. July 27, 2009), was the second one scheduled for trial for conspiracy to commit kidnapping. The other defendant, Carman, had already been convicted of conspiracy to kidnap Lane’s ex-girlfriend, Kristi:

The Government seeks to admit at trial emails found on Carman's computer that were introduced during Carman's trial. *** The Government intends to introduce the emails through Regional Computer Forensic Examiner Tim Hamon, who examined Carman's computer and testified at Carman's trial. The Court previously ruled that the emails were admissible against Carman. The Court concludes that the emails are admissible against Lane.

Federal Rule of Evidence 901(a) provides that authentication or identification "is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims." Rule 901 allows the admission of evidence "if sufficient proof has been introduced so that a reasonable juror could find in favor of authenticity or identification." United States v. Tank, 200 F.3d 627, 630 (9th Cir. 2000). The proponent of the evidence need only make a prima facie showing of authenticity under Rule 901. United States v. Blackwood, 878 F.2d 1200, 1202 (9th Cir. 1989). Rule 901(b)(4) provides that evidence may be authenticated by "[a]ppearance, contents, substance, internal patterns, or other distinctive characteristics, taken in conjunction with other circumstances."

Here, the Government has offered evidence sufficient to support a finding that Carman's emails are what the Government claims. Lane admitted to agents during the interviews that he had emailed Carman, including emails containing photographs of Kristi and hotel information. Hotel information and photographs were found in emails from Carman to Fernandez on Carman's computer. Carman states in a telephone call with Fernandez [an informant] that he had emailed a picture of Kristi to Fernandez. Carman's email address, is listed has having subscriber information identifying John Carman with an address and telephone number that match the address and telephone number listed on Carman's business website for "Carman Investigations." Carman's business website contains an "Email" button allowing visitors to email John Carman, the owner/manager of "Carman Investigations" and lists as the email address, which matches the email address found on the emails obtained by the Government. The Government has made a prima facie showing of authenticity as this evidence is sufficient to allow a reasonable juror to find that the emails are what the proponent says they are. Accordingly, the Court grants the Government's motion to admit emails from Carman's computer containing Carman's co-conspirator statements.

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