Training Day was a movie starring Denzel Washington as a rogue narcotics detective who doesn't hesitate to break the law in his own war on drugs.
Then the defense discovered comments Officer Ettienne made on the internet about video clips of arrests.
- An officer should not have punched a handcuffed man, Ettienne wrote, adding, "If he wanted to tune him up, he should have delayed handcuffing him."
- "If you were going to hit a cuffed suspect, at least get your money's worth 'cause now he's going to get disciplined for" a relatively light punch.
While convicted of the misdemeanor charge, Waters was acquitted of the felony. (He was on parole from a burglary conviction when he was arrested.)
How many of you can imagine yourself or an officer you know engaging in such talk as locker room bravado?
As Officer Ettienne commented after the trial,
You have your Internet persona, and you have what you actually do on the street. What you say on the Internet is all bravado talk, like what you say in a locker room.
The problem is, unlike a locker room, what's said on the Internet exists in cyberspace and is available for subpoena. Officer Ettienne now curbs his tongue. Let us all learn from his experience. As he acknowledged,
It paints a picture of a person who could be overly aggressive. You put that together, it's reasonable doubt in anybody's mind.
And what kind of doubt might it be in a civil use of force lawsuit?
Do you know your online reputation?
What kind of picture have you painted of yourself online? You may be as surprised as the woman who checked herself out on her Twitter lists feature and discovered a porn star had included her on a list and another user listed her under people I've seen naked - a surprise because she had never met the person. (Web link below to PC World article.)
Now that you're thinking about facing all your online postings - and possibly the postings of others about you - on cross examination in a criminal case or civil lawsuit, stay tuned to next month's PT 2 of Facebook & Courtroom Credibility when we'll look at:
- How defense attorneys and their investigators can pierce your online postings even if they're privacy protected.
- Discovering and protecting your online reputation.
- How jurors may be backchanneling you during trial.
- Getting the prosecutor involved.
In the meantime, just think of anything you post online as a sandwich board you wear into court.