Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Authentication of MySpace Communications = Email Authentication; No Need for Testimony from Representative of MySpace

From Dockery v. Dockery, 2009 Tenn. App. LEXIS 717 (Tenn. App. Oct. 29, 2009) (note: Tennessee Rule of Evidence 901(a) = Federal Rule of Evidence 901(a)):

Husband was found guilty of two counts of criminal contempt based on the content of communications he had with Ms. Lowe. Ms. Lowe was called as a witness at trial. Ms. Lowe testified to the two times Husband contacted her on MySpace and asked her to contact Wife and have Wife call him. Ms. Lowe printed these communications with Husband and they were admitted as evidence at trial. Ms. Lowe testified that the copies accurately depicted the communications she had with Husband. Husband objected to the admission of the printouts on the basis that they had not been properly authenticated. ***

The Special Master then asked Ms. Lowe where the documents came from. Ms. Lowe stated that she printed them directly from her computer. Ms. Lowe added that the printouts showed exactly what Husband said, as well as what she said, and identified which party to the conversation was making a particular statement. The Special Master then concluded that Ms. Lowe was able to "authenticate these documents as having been printed from her computer. So I will allow them to be admitted into evidence . . . ." ***

On appeal, Husband argues that the computer printouts of the conversations between Husband and Ms. Lowe could be authenticated only by a representative of MySpace. ***

Counsel for Husband correctly quoted Tenn. R. Evid. 901(a) which requires evidence sufficient to satisfy the court that the matter in question is what its proponent claims. This is exactly what happened with respect to the MySpace printouts. We agree with the Special Master that this evidence was properly authenticated by Ms. Lowe, and that a representative from MySpace was not a prerequisite to its admission. ***

As to the emails between Husband and Ms. Lowe, Ms. Lowe testified to the contents of the conversation between her and Husband, and that the printouts accurately reflected those conversations. We agree with the Special Master that this was sufficient to authenticate the printouts of the emails. Having said that, even if this evidence should not have been admitted, it was duplicative of other evidence, and its admission was, therefore, harmless.

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