How Facebook and Myspace can help lead to the death penalty

Derrick Powell of Cumberland, Maryland is currently facing the death penalty in Delaware.  The crimes he was convicted of were atrocious and included horrible actions against his fellow man.  Part of the evidence against him (which was included in his trial and helped convict him) included pictures from his MySpace page.  When it comes to social networking sites, anything you post could be used against you in a court of law.

Time and time again reports have come out about potential hackers, potential employers, and even current (soon to be ex) employers using social networking pages to monitor people.  There have also been scattered reports of law enforcement agencies using Facebook or MySpace to find wanted suspects.

In Delaware, a local member of the State Police Hi-Tech Crime Unit located Derrick Powell’s MySpace.  Detective Ronald Scott Garland told a jury how a picture taken on December 17 of 2008 showed a picture of a semi-automatic gun on a dresser (that was the same day which he signed a gun consent form.  This picture, along with testimony from Derrick Powell’s parole agent, Dennis Deans, showed that he violated his parole before the “Murder in the 1st” charge Powell was convicted of on February 8, 2011.

This is not the only case regarding MySpace and death row.  In Texas, Detective Diana Tilton used the murder suspect Raul Cortez’s MySpace page against him.  Tilton claimed, “The MySpace page and its contents was one of the two things the jury asked for during their deliberations on whether he was going to be sentenced to death”.

One website claims a judge has to consider the evidence on a case by case basis to decide whether the evidence provided by the social networking sites is relevant or hearsay in order to determine whether it is admissible in court.

Many people have started posting the following under the “info” on their social networking sites:

Warning–any person and/or institution and/or Agent and/or Agency of any governmental structure including but not limited to the United States Federal Government also using or monitoring/using this website or any of its associated websites, you do NOT have my permission to utilize any of my profile information nor any of the content contained herein including, but not limited to my photos, and/ or the comments made about my photo’s or any other “picture” art posted on my profile.  You are hereby notified that you are strictly prohibited from disclosing, copying, distributing, disseminating, or taking any other action against me with regard to this profile and the contents herein.  The foregoing prohibitions also apply to your employee(s), agent(s), student(s) or any personnel under your direction or control.  The contents of this profile are private and legally privileged and confidential information, and the violation of my personal privacy is punishable by law.

Whether or not this disclaimer would stop law enforcement from using your Facebook page or other social networking pages against you has yet to be seen.

Although many of us are not planning on committing murder or other such horrific crimes in the future, many of us do participate in some kind of civil disobedience now and then (even if we are unaware of it at the time).  Sometimes a few preventative measures can go a long way.

The picture below is Chad Spicer, who was shot and killed by Derrick Powell on September 1st, 2009.  Please note that this article is NOT meant to be sympathetic to Derrick Powell in any way, shape, or form.  Powell’s actions are not condoned by this writer.  My own deepest sympathies go to Chad Spicer’s family.


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