Commercial Litigation and Arbitration

Facebook Authentication from Contents: Nonpublic Details of Life; References to Girlfriend and Brothers; Photo; Cell Number; Nickname; Structure & Style of Comments Match Texts — Out of Court Admission of Ownership

Moore v. State, 295 Ga. 709, 763 S.E.2d 670 (2014):

Appellant Patrick Ramon Moore was convicted by a jury of murder and related offenses for the January 3, 2011 shootings of Erica Peterson, Fabian Ellis, and Jervod Jarvis, and shooting death of Tracy Burton. Appellant appeals the denial of his amended motion for new trial, contending that the evidence was insufficient for a jury to find him guilty, and also asserting that the trial court erred by (1) excluding evidence of a victim's possession of drugs, (2) admitting evidence concerning Appellant's Facebook page, and (3) refusing to give a voluntary manslaughter jury charge. Finding no error, we affirm.


 [*710]  [**672]   Viewed in the light most favorable to the jury's verdict, the evidence adduced at trial established as follows. On January 3, 2011, Appellant and his girlfriend, Toni [***3]  Hale, returned to their apartment to find the door open and that they had been burglarized. Hale and Appellant suspected that Erica Peterson, Fabian Ellis, Jervod Jarvis, and Tracy Burton had burglarized their apartment.


Later that evening, Peterson, Burton, Jarvis, and Ellis approached Appellant, who was standing in a darkened area of the apartment complex. Jarvis attempted to speak with Appellant about the theft. Appellant pulled an AK-47 from under his jacket and began firing. All of the victims were unarmed and ran. Appellant shot Burton twice from behind, and he died instantly from a gunshot wound to the back of his head. Appellant struck Jarvis in the back, with a bullet exiting his chest and exposing his right lung. Jarvis initially fell down but then was able to get up and keep running. A bullet hit Peterson's phone, which was in her pocket. Appellant shot Ellis in the hand, and he collapsed and pretended to be dead. Appellant continued to fire the gun as he pursued Jarvis and Peterson around the corner of an apartment building in the complex. Appellant then fled into one of the apartment buildings. Meanwhile, Ellis got up, ran to Peterson and Jarvis, and called 911.

Appellant [***4]  left the AK-47 at Jessica Pettis' apartment and fled the apartment complex. Appellant later called Pettis and told her to put the gun away and that "he tried to shoot them all in their head. But the girl had ran [sic]." Pettis hid the AK-47 in a closet. Later that evening, at the direction of police, Pettis called Appellant, placed the call on speaker phone, and Appellant again told Pettis to put the gun away. Pettis then disclosed to police where she had hidden the AK-47. After police left, Pettis called Appellant and told him that they had found the gun, to which Appellant responded, "F***, they got me then."

 [*711]  Peterson, Jarvis, and Ellis, as well as a maintenance worker for the apartment complex, identified Appellant as the shooter in a photographic lineup and also at trial. The maintenance worker also testified that he saw Appellant raise his weapon and start firing at the four victims and that Appellant was the only person with a gun.

At trial, a detective testified that the path of the bullet wound that killed Burton was consistent with him running away from the bullet. The investigator testified further that the first cluster of shell casings recovered at the scene was consistent [***5]  with someone standing in one place and firing in the direction of where Burton's body was found, and the second cluster of shell casings was consistent with someone advancing while continuing to fire. A firearms examiner testified at trial that the shell casings found at the scene had been fired from the AK-47 found at Pettis' apartment. The owner of the AK-47 identified the serial number on the AK-47 found in Pettis' apartment as the same one that had been stolen from his home in December 2010.

Additionally at trial, a copy of Appellant's Facebook page was admitted into evidence over Appellant's objection. Hale read several of Appellant's Facebook posts into evidence,  [**673]  including the following from December 30, 2011:

   Man, this some sh [sic] I got to be behind the walls instead of being behind my chick come 2012. Next time lames run in da [sic] spot, ima [sic] b**** up and call the law. Maybe den [sic] I'll stay on the streets. Happy New Years. The resolution is not to scratch my trigger finger so often.


 [**674]  3. Appellant next asserts that the trial court erred in permitting testimony from Hale about a Facebook page in Appellant's name. First, Appellant contends that the Facebook page was not properly authenticated and there was insufficient evidence to prove that Appellant actually made [***9]  the comments on the page. Appellant asserts that Hale was not present when the comments were made, and she admitted that anyone could have posted the comments and created the Facebook page.

"Documents from electronic sources such as the printouts from a website like [Facebook] are subject to the same rules of authentication as other more traditional documentary evidence and may be authenticated through circumstantial evidence." Burgess, 292 Ga. at 823.2

2   This case was tried before January 1, 2013, which was the effective date of Georgia's new Evidence Code, including OCGA § 24-9-901 ("Requirement of authentication or identification").

Hale testified that the picture on the Facebook page was of Appellant and confirmed that his hometown was Gary, Indiana, as listed on the page. The Facebook page included the cell phone number from which Appellant had called Hale. Hale and other witnesses testified that Appellant went by the nickname "Crown" or "Crown Hood," and the Facebook page profile name was listed as "Patrick Crown Hood Moore." Appellant's Facebook page contained details about his life that were not public knowledge and made references to Appellant's other girlfriend and his brothers. Hale also testified that the structure [***10]  and style of the comments posted on the page matched the structure and style of the texts Appellant had sent Hale. Finally, Appellant admitted to Hale that the Facebook page belonged to him. Based on this direct and circumstantial evidence, we find that the Facebook page was properly authenticated. See Burgess, 292 Ga. at 823-824 (printout from a MySpace profile page was sufficiently authenticated by testimony that the defendant's nickname matched the profile name, photos of the defendant matched the images on the printout, and the defendant's age and hometown were accurately listed on the page); In the Interest of L. P., 324 Ga. App. 78 (2) (749 SE2d 389) (2013) (Facebook page sufficiently authenticated by photos of the defendant and the defendant's biographical information).

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