Electronic Discovery and Digital Evidence in a Nutshell - Chapter XII Outline
Here's the last installment of my outline of Electronic Discovery and Digital Evidence in a Nutshell, the second edition of the West Academic guide to electronic discovery law in the United States authored by Judge Shira Scheindlin (the judge in the Zubulake v. UBS Warburg) and members of the Sedona Conference. The previous installment was posted on April 10, 2017.
XII. ADMISSIBILITY OF DIGITAL EVIDENCE
FRCP 101(b)(6) – digital evidence is admissible whenever hardcopy evidence of the same type would be admissible.
HOW IS DIGITAL EVIDENCE USED IN COURT?
Electronic Business Records
Computer generated animation – e.g. how an accident occurred.
Digital presentation to illustrate an expert’s opinion.
Pedagogic device – aid in questioning a witness
Digital Enhancement –
Information from the internet –
Other: GPS data; metadata from Word documents.
WHICH EVIDENTIARY RULES ARE MOST OFTEN INVOKED WHEN DIGITAL EVIDENCE IN PREOFFERED?
Five basic concepts raised by digital evidence
Relevance and Prejudice – Rule 403 – probative value outweighed by danger of prejudice, confusion of issues, misleading the jury, undue delay, waste of time, needless presentation of cumulative evidence.
Authenticity – Rule 901- means to establish
Appearance taken in conjunction with the circumstances.
Evidence describing a process used to produce an accurate result.
Hearsay - out of court statement offered to prove the truth of the matter asserted.
Rule 801 exemptions – admissions and prior statements.
Rule 803, 804, and 807 exceptions. – business and public records.
Best Evidence Rule – to prove contents of writing proponent must introduce the original or acceptable duplicate – Rules 1001-1004.
Duplicate can be challenged if genuine issue as to authenticity or use is somehow unfair.
Can forgo if good reason for not having it.
United States v. Bennett (9th Cir. 2004) – testimony by Coast Guard officer of GPS backtrack info not admissible when device was not seized. No evidence presented that it would have been difficult to download GPS data.
Requirements for Admissible Expert Testimony - Rule 702 –
Testimony based on sufficient facts or data
Product of reliable principles and methods
Witness has applied principle and methods reliably to the facts of the case.
GENERAL APPROACH TO DIGITAL EVIDENCE
Digital evidence, like all evidence must be probative, reliable and authentic.
ADMISSIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR COMMON TYPES OF DIGITAL EVIDENCE
Business and Public Records
US v. Hassan (4th Cir. 2014) – screenshots of Facebook and YouTube with certificates had been maintained as business records in the regular course of business.
Machine Generated Evidence
Computer generated evidence is not hearsay.
Digital Demonstrative Evidence
Rule 403 applied to determine if reconstruction is substantially similar.
Bowoto v. Chevron – 3D model of accident not allowed under Rule 403 if not as accurate as possible.
Digital Presentation to Illustrate Expert’s Opinion or Party’s Theory of a Case
People v. Duenas (Cal. 2012) – computer animation showing party’s theory of how shooting occurred can be admitted if limiting instruction given to the jury.
Argument should be confined to facts introduced in evidence, facts of common knowledge and logical inferences.
Summary of Voluminous Evidence
Evaluate under Rule 1006.
U.S. v. Seifert (8th Cir. 2006) – digitally enhance surveillance tape admissible – expert real timed a time lapse video, zoomed in, and brightened it.
Web site data
Data posted by others with owner’s consent (e.g. chat room)
Data posted without consent (hacking material)
Authentication of Internet Evidence
Rule 901(a) – What was on the web site? Does the exhibit accurately reflect it? Is the exhibit attributable to the owner?
Court will review the totality of the circumstances –
Length of time data was on the site.
Data published elsewhere
Internal publication of a government document constitutes official publication by Rule 902(5).
Rule 902(6) online newspapers and periodicals are self-authenticating.
Courts may take judicial notice of government sites, or map sites.
Internet Archives –
Temporary internet files – expert testimony about retrieval process sufficient to authenticate.
Search engines – testimony or certification as to results is required.
Hearsay Issues with Respect to Internet Evidence\
Every extrajudicial statement drawn from a web site has been made out of court and must satisfy exception or exemption
Data Entry – hearsay – act of data entry considered separate from content of posted declaration.
Only assertive non-verbal conduct raises hearsay issues – e.g. punching price into checkout computer – assertive; scanning bar code non-assertive.
Business and Public Records on a Web Site – hearsay exception under Rule 803.
Market Reports and Tables – Rule 803 exception
Admissions – published website data by litigation is a hearsay exemption.
Non-hearsay proffers – No hearsay issues if offered to show only that the data was published on the web, e.g. in punitive damages proceeding.
Authentication of Email – low standard. Rule 901(b) can authenticate by its appearance and contents.
US v. Siddiqui (11th Cir. 2000) and US v . Fluker (7th Cir. 2012) – email authentication by circumstantial evidence.
Domain in email address is a mark of origin under Rule 902(7) that can be used to authenticate.
Circumstantial indicia include replies to email; address consistent with that on other emails; email contained full name of recipient; recited matters know only to sender or recipient.
Authenticity of text messages are a question of fact for the jury as long as there is circumstantial evidence of source.
Hearsay issues – don’t fall under business records exception.
Email may contain hearsay with hearsay –
Admission by Party Opponent – email from opponent not excluded by hearsay rule.
Social Media and Chat Room Evidence
US v. Gatson (D.N.J. 2014) – no search warrant required for use of undercover account on social media
Social media content can be authenticated by testimony of creator, someone who saw an item be posted; expert testimony concerns results of a search, or methods of access.
People v. Valdez (Cal. 2011) – government had sufficiently authenticated postings from MySpace by showing use of password and user name and nature of content – despite defendant position that he was hacked.