7th Circuit: Google v. Wikipedia citations

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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."



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  1. I have an open CHINS case I failed a urine screen I have since got clean completed IOP classes now in after care passed home inspection my x sister in law has my children I still don't even have unsupervised when I have been clean for over 4 months my x sister wants to keep the lids for good n has my case working with her I just discovered n have proof that at one of my hearing dcs case worker stated in court to the judge that a screen was dirty which caused me not to have unsupervised this was at the beginning two weeks after my initial screen I thought the weed could have still been in my system was upset because they were suppose to check levels n see if it was going down since this was only a few weeks after initial instead they said dirty I recently requested all of my screens from redwood because I take prescriptions that will show up n I was having my doctor look at levels to verify that matched what I was prescripted because dcs case worker accused me of abuseing when I got my screens I found out that screen I took that dcs case worker stated in court to judge that caused me to not get granted unsupervised was actually negative what can I do about this this is a serious issue saying a parent failed a screen in court to judge when they didn't please advise

  2. I have a degree at law, recent MS in regulatory studies. Licensed in KS, admitted b4 S& 7th circuit, but not to Indiana bar due to political correctness. Blacklisted, nearly unemployable due to hostile state action. Big Idea: Headwinds can overcome, esp for those not within the contours of the bell curve, the Lego Movie happiness set forth above. That said, even without the blacklisting for holding ideas unacceptable to the Glorious State, I think the idea presented above that a law degree open many vistas other than being a galley slave to elitist lawyers is pretty much laughable. (Did the law professors of Indiana pay for this to be published?)

  3. Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh who is helping Sister Fuller with this Con Artist Kevin Bart McCarthy scares Sister Joseph Therese, Patricia Ann Fuller very much that McCarthy will try and hurt Patricia Ann Fuller and Paul Hartman of Burbank, Oh or any member of his family. Sister is very, very scared, (YES, I AM) This McCarthy guy is a real, real CON MAN and crook. I try to totall flatter Kevin Bart McCARTHY to keep him from hurting my best friends in this world which are Carolyn Rose and Paul Hartman. I Live in total fear of this man Kevin Bart McCarthy and try to praise him as a good man to keep us ALL from his bad deeds. This man could easy have some one cause us a very bad disability. You have to PRAISAE in order TO PROTECT yourself. He lies and makes up stories about people and then tries to steal if THEY OWN THRU THE COURTS A SPECIAL DEVOTION TO PROTECT, EX> Our Lady of America DEVOTION. EVERYONE who reads this, PLEASE BE CAREFUL of Kevin Bart McCarthy of Indianapolis, IN My Phone No. IS 419-435-3838.

  4. Joe, you might want to do some reading on the fate of Hoosier whistleblowers before you get your expectations raised up.

  5. I had a hospital and dcs caseworker falsify reports that my child was born with drugs in her system. I filed a complaint with the Indiana department of health....and they found that the hospital falsified drug screens in their investigation. Then I filed a complaint with human health services in Washington DC...dcs drug Testing is unregulated and is indicating false positives...they are currently being investigated by human health services. Then I located an attorney and signed contracts one month ago to sue dcs and Anderson community hospital. Once the suit is filed I am taking out a loan against the suit and paying a law firm to file a writ of mandamus challenging the courts jurisdiction to invoke chins case against me. I also forwarded evidence to a u.s. senator who contacted hhs to push an investigation faster. Once the lawsuit is filed local news stations will be running coverage on the situation. Easy day....people will be losing their jobs soon...and judge pancol...who has attempted to cover up what has happened will also be in trouble. The drug testing is a kids for cash and federal funding situation.