While many of us use social media on an everyday basis, the ethics of social media in terms of its role in criminal law remain somewhat of a mystery. A Tennessee case wherein UT football players are accused of rape is bringing this gray area to public light.
What rights do people have as far as their privacy within their social networks? Do defendants, accusers and witnesses have varying rights regarding the state’s access to their social media fodder? On Tuesday, Dec. 20, an appellate court will decide whether prosecutors should have access to an accuser’s social media conversations that may relate to her allegations.
The apparent suspicion keeping the prosecutors fighting for the social media content is that the conversations would support the criminal defense’s argument of the sex between the accuser and the defendant being consensual. Reports indicate that the accuser had engaged in a consensual relationship with the defendant prior to the alleged sexual assault.
As we have mentioned in a recent post about sex crimes cases in Tennessee, a common and effective criminal defense in rape cases is that the sex was consensual. This defense will provide more than just an example of that powerful defense. It is taking on what is quickly becoming a hot and important legal matter: the ethics of social media access in criminal cases.
What the Tennessee judges decide in the specific case could shape this legal matter in our state but also impact similar matters throughout the country as more and more courts are facing questions regarding social media. We will keep you informed on this blog when there is an update in this notable Tennessee case.