Innocents Framed By Facebook Pics
I read with interest this week about 21 year old Treveon Weaver arrested for counts of second-degree assault, three counts of first-degree robbery, two counts of first-degree kidnapping, and one count each of first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, first-degree burglary and cruelty to animals on August 9, 2017. Weaver proclaimed his innocence. The judge held him on bonds totalling $540,000. So he sat incarcerated for two years awaiting trial. Prosecutors received DNA results excluding him as the perpetrator on April 19, 2018. However the prosecution did not disclose the results for some eleven months, on the eve of trial in April of 2019. Here is what Weaver's attorney had to say this week after the charges were nolle prossed.
"This was a sad case for the legal system,'' Anthony said. “One, the system punished a person that could not afford a bond by placing a $540,000 bond on him after giving him a court-appointed attorney. Two, The DNA results took more than 15 months and, three, the identity of my client by a Facebook photo was a a bad ID. I hope we can learn from this bad case.”
Photo from AL.COM
So without the DNA, prosecutors still had a witness who identified poor Mr. Weaver from a Facebook photo? An innocent man incarcerated on a Facebook photo ID? And then I remembered.....
In July I was contacted by a man incarcerated in prison who was approved to be released to a halfway house. Only problem was that he had two active traffic warrants from the City of Mobile. One was for Leaving the Scene of an Accident, and the other was for No Insurance. Both were from the same traffic event. The prison would not release him nor would the halfway house accept him with active warrants of arrest outstanding. He has given me permission to share his story. He was adamant he was actually innocent of the charges. He said he could not have committed the offenses. I explained to him the difficulties in such a case, but he assured me he had proof. I asked him to send me the proof and I did some checking on my own too. The proof he sent me made me a believer. I pulled the citations and noticed that the officer alleged my client committed the offenses on January 29, 2019.
So I contacted the sheriff's office who oversees Metro Jail to see if my client was in fact incarcerated on January 29, 2019 at the time of the offense. Below is the Sheriff's office response.
My client had been in Metro Jail for some six days at the time he was charged with committing the traffic offenses. He would serve until January 31, 2019. There was no way he could have committed the offense. He was in Metro Jail. It is important to remember the citing officer had to go before a municipal court magistrate and swear he had probable cause to believe my client committed the offense. So what was the probable cause?
The Victim Identified my client via Facebook!
Charges against my client were ultimately dismissed, but I am left to wonder how many other innocents are implicated by False Facebook Photos. I think law enforcement as well as some of our courts and juries should be very careful on evaluating these type of identifications. Finally, I'm left to wonder, without the DNA evidence ruling Mr. Weaver out as a suspect, would the State still have proceeded to trial under the faulty facebook identification?
Matt Green represents persons in a wide variety of criminal and constitutional matters. He represents personal injury victims as well. Matt served as a municipal court traffic court judge in the City of Mobile and the City of Saraland for nearly a decade. Before that Matt prosecuted major felonies, traffic homicides, and violent crimes in the Baldwin County District Attorney’s Office. He teaches trial advocacy to Mobile Police Cadets and speaks to the Mobile County Court Referral Victim Impact Panel. Matt also advocates for free speech, economic liberty, and due process. He may be reached at 251.434.8500 or by e-mail at email@example.com or by Twitter @greenlawoffice
The Alabama State Bar, Rules of Professional conduct, Rule 7.2 (e), requires the following language in all attorney communications: No representation is made that the quality of the legal services to be performed is greater than the quality of legal services performed by other lawyer.
Note: Illustration Above is from Discover Magazine: False Eyewitness“Who are you going to believe? Me or your lying eyes?”