ILNews

7th Circuit: Google v. Wikipedia citations

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Judges and appellate attorneys should feel free to include Google satellite photos in cases to the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago.

But information from online dictionary Wikipedia could be crossing the line.

One of the 7th Circuit's most vocal jurists – Judge Richard A. Posner – has talked about both in recent newspaper stories and case opinions.

"Wikipedia is a terrific resource," Judge Posner said in a recent New York Times article. "Partly because it so convenient, it often has been updated recently and is very accurate." But, he added: "It wouldn't be right to use it in a critical issue. If the safety of a product is at issue, you wouldn't look it up in Wikipedia."

That story on Monday highlighted dangers about courts citing Wikipedia in decisions – something the Supreme Court of the United States has reportedly never done but more than 100 judicial rulings have relied on.

However, that hasn't stopped Judge Posner and colleagues from using information from Google – specifically a satellite photo of an area where a crime happened in Indianapolis. Judge Posner pointed to it as a resource that could have helped clarify facts in a recent case.

On Tuesday, Judge Posner wrote a majority opinion in U.S. v. Boyd that came from a 2005 ruling by U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker in Indianapolis. The case involved defendant Artemas Boyd, who fired a weapon into the air after leaving the Guvernment Bar and Lounge on East Market Street in downtown Indianapolis. Leaving about closing time, he and his girlfriend walked into an area behind the bar, where Boyd fired six shots into the air.

No one was injured, but he was charged with being a felon in possession of a weapon. In sentencing Boyd to 46 months in prison, the judge also determined he was committing another felony by recklessly performing an act "that creates a substantial risk of bodily injury to another person."

Boyd argued that given the hour and fact that no one else was in the direct line of fire, his shooting did not create a "substantial" risk of causing bodily injury.

In the ruling, the 7th Circuit panel wrote, "We are distressed at the sloppiness with which the case has been handled by both sides. Neither party attempted to quantify the risk created by the defendant's conduct; and vague words such as 'substantial' are not a satisfactory substitute for data ... ."

The judges included a Google earth photograph to show the potential "substantive" danger of Boyd's conduct with the weapon. He noted that Judge Barker did not offer any findings concerning the number of people nearby, nor did attorneys offer evidence about apartments or office buildings in the vicinity.

Judge Posner wrote, "Less forgivably – for the enormous variety of the circumstances in which random shooting occurs may defeat the efforts to estimate the probability that a given incident would result in injury – no satellite photo (available free of charge from Google) was placed in evidence to indicate the physical surroundings."

However, Judge Posner and the panel affirmed the lower court's decision: "Despite these gaps, we are reasonably confident that the Indiana courts would hold that firing multiple shots from a high-powered gun in downtown Indianapolis for no better reason than an excess of animal spirits creates a substantial risk of bodily injury within the meaning of the (state) statute."

 

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. The ADA acts as a tax upon all for the benefit of a few. And, most importantly, the many have no individual say in whether they pay the tax. Those with handicaps suffered in military service should get a pass, but those who are handicapped by accident or birth do NOT deserve that pass. The drivel about "equal access" is spurious because the handicapped HAVE equal access, they just can't effectively use it. That is their problem, not society's. The burden to remediate should be that of those who seek the benefit of some social, constructional, or dimensional change, NOT society generally. Everybody wants to socialize the costs and concentrate the benefits of government intrusion so that they benefit and largely avoid the costs. This simply maintains the constant push to the slop trough, and explains, in part, why the nation is 20 trillion dollars in the hole.

  2. Hey 2 psychs is never enough, since it is statistically unlikely that three will ever agree on anything! New study admits this pseudo science is about as scientifically valid as astrology ... done by via fortune cookie ....John Ioannidis, professor of health research and policy at Stanford University, said the study was impressive and that its results had been eagerly awaited by the scientific community. “Sadly, the picture it paints - a 64% failure rate even among papers published in the best journals in the field - is not very nice about the current status of psychological science in general, and for fields like social psychology it is just devastating,” he said. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2015/aug/27/study-delivers-bleak-verdict-on-validity-of-psychology-experiment-results

  3. Indianapolis Bar Association President John Trimble and I are on the same page, but it is a very large page with plenty of room for others to join us. As my final Res Gestae article will express in more detail in a few days, the Great Recession hastened a fundamental and permanent sea change for the global legal service profession. Every state bar is facing the same existential questions that thrust the medical profession into national healthcare reform debates. The bench, bar, and law schools must comprehensively reconsider how we define the practice of law and what it means to access justice. If the three principals of the legal service profession do not recast the vision of their roles and responsibilities soon, the marketplace will dictate those roles and responsibilities without regard for the public interests that the legal profession professes to serve.

  4. I have met some highly placed bureaucrats who vehemently disagree, Mr. Smith. This is not your father's time in America. Some ideas are just too politically incorrect too allow spoken, says those who watch over us for the good of their concept of order.

  5. Lets talk about this without forgetting that Lawyers, too, have FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND ASSOCIATION

ADVERTISEMENT