A ruling on Friday gave prosecutors permission to use images from James Holmes’ cellphone in the Colorado shooting trial, The Associated Press reported on Monday. Among the images are “eerie self-portraits taken before the attack,” The Associated Press adds. Prior to the ruling, defense attorneys argued that examining images on Holmes’ phone was unconstitutional.
Disturbing Mobile Phone Evidence May Play a Significant Role in Holmes’ Trial
“Other photos on the phone amount to surveillance of the theater taken up to three weeks before the shootings,” prosecutors revealed to The Associated Press. ABC adds that the same ruling also granted permissions to use Holmes’ emails, bank records, and computer data. Cellphone images likely to be shown in court include Holmes wearing a black hat with black contacts, another photo of Holmes’ holding a gun and smiling, and a third picture depicting a shotgun, assault rifle, and several rounds of ammo. Holmes snapped all three photographs just six hours before the shooting on July 20, 2012. Holmes shot and killed 12 people and injured another 70.
The prosecution is asking the court to sentence Holmes to the death penalty. Holmes’ attorneys admit he was responsible for the shooting, but they claim Holmes is insane — and therefore not liable for his actions. Mobile phone forensics and digital image forensics may help determine whether the attack was premeditated. From there, jurors must decide what premeditating crime suggests about the accused’s sanity.
Cellphones Searches and Mobile Evidence Remains Largely Controversial
Although the judge presiding over Holmes’ case ruled in favor of showing the cellphone images, many courts remain uncertain about the constitutionality of using text messages, images, and data stowed on mobile phones as evidence. In some circumstances, courts have gone as far to rule that search warrants are unnecessary. (Courts have made this assertion regarding company-owned and borrowed cellphones.) Lawyer Hanni Fakhoury sums it up nicely: “The courts are all over the place. They can’t even agree if there’s a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages that would trigger Fourth Amendment protection.”
The decision to take full advantage of mobile phone forensics is not widely accepted. Although jurors will be able to view relevant digital images for case assessment during Holmes’ trial, many continue to debate about the constitutionality of seizing and searching cellphones. Good references here.