Scouring the Web for evidence

June 6, 2008
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It’s no secret that what you post online can be viewed by anyone – including a judge. A not-for-publication case handed down by the Court of Appeals Thursday involves a custody dispute, with the father offering evidence he found on the Internet to gain custody of his daughter.  



The mother, Amanda Thompson, never married Samuel Strange, so under Indiana Code Section 16-37-2-2.1(g) she had sole legal and physical custody of their daughter.  



Strange, after filing a petition for child custody determination, found Amanda’s MySpace page. On it, Thompson had posted a photograph of their daughter and information about her, along with profanity, that she was going to kill herself, and that she liked being “doped up.” Strange introduced this evidence along with proof he provided his daughter’s schooling, nurturing, caring, and support, and the trial court granted him custody of their daughter.  



It doesn’t say whether Strange came up with the idea to look for her MySpace page or if his attorney encouraged him to search for information about her on the Internet, but perhaps this is something more parties and attorneys are doing in preparation for their cases. Indiana Lawyer recently had an article about attorneys using free and low-cost Web services to find out information about clients, opposing parties, and witnesses.



We hear warnings all the time about not posting information online that you wouldn’t want others to see because once it’s up there, it’s out there forever. Is the general public still slow to catch on to this idea, or do they think that personal Web pages are off-limits in court cases?  
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  • Word of caution: when posting anything on line, whether it is on a social media site, or even a blog like this, remember that your comments are permanent, and without later edit. You can\'t say something you might regret later, and then real it in. All this communication is the wave of the future, and lawyers should do what they can to familiarize themselves with the various forms. But they should do so with caution. It can be a great marketing tool if done correctly.

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  1. Can I get this form on line,if not where can I obtain one. I am eligible.

  2. What a fine example of the best of the Hoosier tradition! How sad that the AP has to include partisan snark in the obit for this great American patriot and adventurer.

  3. Why are all these lawyers yakking to the media about pending matters? Trial by media? What the devil happened to not making extrajudicial statements? The system is falling apart.

  4. It is a sad story indeed as this couple has been only in survival mode, NOT found guilty with Ponzi, shaken down for 5 years and pursued by prosecution that has been ignited by a civil suit with very deep pockets wrenched in their bitterness...It has been said that many of us are breaking an average of 300 federal laws a day without even knowing it. Structuring laws, & civilForfeiture laws are among the scariest that need to be restructured or repealed . These laws were initially created for drug Lords and laundering money and now reach over that line. Here you have a couple that took out their own money, not drug money, not laundering. Yes...Many upset that they lost money...but how much did they make before it all fell apart? No one ask that question? A civil suit against Williams was awarded because he has no more money to fight...they pushed for a break in order...they took all his belongings...even underwear, shoes and clothes? who does that? What allows that? Maybe if you had the picture of him purchasing a jacket at the Goodwill just to go to court the next day...his enemy may be satisfied? But not likely...bitterness is a master. For happy ending lovers, you will be happy to know they have a faith that has changed their world and a solid love that many of us can only dream about. They will spend their time in federal jail for taking their money from their account, but at the end of the day they have loyal friends, a true love and a hope of a new life in time...and none of that can be bought or taken That is the real story.

  5. Could be his email did something especially heinous, really over the top like questioning Ind S.Ct. officials or accusing JLAP of being the political correctness police.

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