Admission of Twitter Post as Evidence at Trial Affirmed on Appeal

Arnett Blake and his girlfriend, Cindy Edwards, attended a party at a community center. Defendant, Blake’s ex-girlfriend, also attended the party.

While in the bathroom, Edwards encountered defendant “making rude comments about her.” While Edwards was still in the bathroom, defendant exited the bathroom, approached Blake, and said “I should F— your girlfriend up.” Later that night, defendant purposefully bumped into Blake.

As Edwards and Blake were in the lobby trying to leave the party, defendant quickly approached Blake with her closed fist in the air. Blake reacted by pushing defendant away, prompting security to grab him. When Edwards turned to say something, she saw defendant holding a high-heeled shoe, with which defendant struck Edwards in the face. Blake also saw defendant hit Edwards with a shoe as he was being escorted outside. When defendant was brought outside, Edwards saw defendant did not have her shoes on.

Edwards and Blake went to the police station to report the incident and then went to the hospital, where Edwards received nine stitches. After the assault, defendant and Edwards had communications “back and forth” on Twitter. Soon thereafter, Edwards saw defendant posted a tweet saying “shoe to ya face bitch.”

Defendant was charged with aggravated assault, but the charge was downgraded to simple assault, a disorderly persons offense. At trial, the municipal court found defendant guilty and imposed a $307 fine plus costs and assessments. Defendant appealed. The Law Division conducted a trial de novo, hearing oral argument. The Law Division judge also found defendant guilty of simple assault and imposed the same monetary penalties as the municipal court.

On appeal, defendant argued that the tweet posted on Twitter should not have been admitted at rial as it was not properly authenticated. The New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the ruling of the lower courts admitting the tweet into evidence, holding as follows:

We need not create a new test for social media postings. Defendant argues a tweet can be easily forged, but so can a letter or any other kind of writing. The simple fact that a tweet is created on the Internet does not set it apart from other writings. Accordingly, we apply our traditional rules of authentication under N.J.R.E. 901… N.J.R.E. 901 provides: “The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter is what its proponent claims.” Authentication “‘does not require absolute certainty or conclusive proof’ – only ‘a prima facie showing of authenticity’ is required.”

Defendant’s Twitter handle, her profile photo, the content of the tweet, its nature as a reply, and the testimony presented at trial was sufficient to meet the low burden imposed by our authentication rules… Other courts have admitted tweets applying their similar authentication standard.

 The Law Division, like the municipal court, provided sufficient reasons for finding the tweet authentic, relevant, and admissible. Defendant’s remaining arguments regarding authentication lack sufficient merit to warrant discussion. R. 2:11-3(e)(2). Accordingly, we find no abuse of discretion in admitting the tweet.

Accordingly, the New Jersey Appellate Division affirmed the simple assault conviction of the defendant who was found to have hit her ex-boyfriend’s successor girlfriend with a shoe.

The case is attached here – State of New Jersey v. Hannah

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