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Media Privacy The Courts Your Rights Online

Accused Killer Asks For Online Media Users' IDs 149

SpaceGhost writes "According to the Houston Chronicle, the attorney for a Texas man charged in the death of a four-year-old 'has asked several local media outlets to provide the names of readers and listeners who commented about his client online,' stating that his client 'was struck by the conclusions people drew about his client and the specificity of some comments that made it appear they came from people with personal knowledge of the case.' Media outlets who have been subpoenaed include The Houston Chronicle, the Conroe Courier, KHOU (Houston area Channel 11, CBS affiliate) and KTRK (Houston area Channel 13, ABC affiliate)."
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Accused Killer Asks For Online Media Users IDs

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  • by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @06:18PM (#29334773) Homepage Journal

    That stupid skank whore in New York got a court to force Google to give up the ID of someone who hurt her feelings and now everyone will use that precedent to do the same.

    LK

    • That stupid skank whore in New York got a court to force Google to give up the ID of someone who hurt her feelings and now everyone will use that precedent to do the same.

      LK

      Any details? Where is the story?

      • by Nerdfest ( 867930 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @06:33PM (#29334883)
        Here a link to a related story [wired.com] about suing Google. Interestingly, I actually got the link by Googling "stupid skank got google to release user information court case". Man, I really love Google sometimes.
      • That [nice young woman] in New York got a court to force Google to give up the ID of someone who hurt her feelings

        Great, now you've exposed Slashdot to the same liability. %}

        Seriously though, this is a real concern. I for one value my anonymity. If I had to take responsibility for everything I wrote, I'd hardly write anything at all. And wouldn't humanity be the poorer for that!

        • by rtb61 ( 674572 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:54PM (#29336475) Homepage

          When in doubt, couch your language and, that does mean typing all your comments while sitting on a sofa using a laptop, that means simply express everything as a opinion not as a statement of factor. The all the slander and attorney lawyers in the world can not touch you unless they can prove that at the exact time you expressed your opinion it was not in fact your true opinion but that you lied about it and falsely expressed your opinion in order to slander someone.

          Whilst this can definitely happen, think of all those astroturfers eg. M$ trolls for example, it is of course impossible to prove.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by MrNaz ( 730548 ) *

            My opinions contain no factors as they are prime opinions.

          • by Capsaicin ( 412918 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @05:19AM (#29338181)

            The all the slander and attorney lawyers in the world can not touch you unless they can prove that at the exact time you expressed your opinion it was not in fact your true opinion but that you lied about it and falsely expressed your opinion in order to slander someone.

            Speaking as a lawyer, I would caution against presuming this is sufficient, to protect yourself against "all the slander and attorney lawyers in the world."

            In my jurisdiction, for instance, 'truth' (by itself) has only been a defence to defmation since 1 January 2006 (and this was, IMHO, a very poorly thought out 'reform'). Prior to that you were required to show more (eg. truth + public interest). In much of the common law word (eg UK) this is still the case. I believe that throughout most of the world, whether the defamatory publication is an honestly held opinion, is not relevant. The question is whether the 'imputation' is defamatory, and whether it is true (and, jurisdicition depending, more than merely true).

            As I understand it, even in the US, the principle in New York Times Co. v. Sullivan, requiring actual malice to be shown, applies only to public officials. Or do you have any better (more recent) authority which suggests otherwise?

            You might find lawyers more of a threat than you imagine. ;)

      • You must be new here. [slashdot.org]

        Or, judging by your name, I just fed a troll. At any rate, it should still be useful to anyone who really hadn't heard what GP is referring to.
    • by linzeal ( 197905 )
      The parent is not flame bait. Who gave mod points to the damn illiterate prudes, "Skank" is one of the accusations the blogger who was sued made that got his anonymity pulled. The point being calling someone a skank or a prude or a motherfucking son of a cunt should not be enough to have someone's anonymity pulled online.
  • by Doug52392 ( 1094585 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @06:21PM (#29334803)

    Most of the comments in an article about a man who killed a four-year-old on local news websites would most likely be along the lines of "OMG THIS SICK FUCK DOESN'T EVEN DESERVE A TRIAL! JUST SHOOT HIM!"... ... At least that's the trend I notice on local news sites in my area.

    • by guyminuslife ( 1349809 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @07:28PM (#29335231)

      Actually, in Texas, we call that due process.

      • I believe it requires multiple people to say that.

        Cuts down on the appeals after the fact.

      • by joocemann ( 1273720 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @09:41PM (#29336033)

        Actually, in Texas, we call that due process.

        Slashdot mods you 'Funny'.

        Texans mod you "Informative"

      • by moosesocks ( 264553 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @10:11PM (#29336191) Homepage

        You're joking, but it's slowly coming to light that Texas almost definitely [newyorker.com] executed an innocent man in 2004.

        At the time of his execution, numerous petitions containing exonerating evidence had been filed, and were ignored.

        With any luck, this case will have far-reaching implications. At the very least, the judges and governor need to be put on trial for negligent homicide.

        • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Monday September 07, 2009 @06:07AM (#29338401) Journal

          it's slowly coming to light that Texas almost definitely executed an innocent man in 2004.

          I read the article before, and it certainly is of concern. However, it's a horrendously one-sided article, which covers only the incriminating facts that they can later refute, ignoring the rest of the trial as if it didn't exist, in order to make a point.

          Secondly, just because someone shouldn't have been convicted on the evidence (reasonable doubt), isn't proof of innocence by a long shot.

          With any luck, this case will have far-reaching implications. At the very least, the judges and governor need to be put on trial for negligent homicide.

          The governor does NOT serve any role in the court system. The fact that he has the opportunity to pardon someone doesn't translate into an obligation for him to determine guilt or innocence.

          And while I'm here, I'd just like to point out my endless frustration with this idiotic mindset that, if you don't execute someone, you can "make it right". It's a load of crap. People on death row are in prison for years, DECADES, before being executed... Releasing someone for a crime they didn't commit after 30 years of torture in prison isn't exactly a "take back" that's going to make it all better. You've still utterly destroyed a person's life, not just for the time they were in prison, but also for all the time after they're released. I'd like to keep the death penalty around, if only for motivating people to improve the rigor of the legal system. Clearly, they wouldn't be nearly as motivated if people were "just" facing a lifetime locked away...

          • Your argument is ludicrous and doesn't work in practice. The death penalty is already here, and clearly the legal system still fails people who are really innocent. The gravity of capital punishment in no way motivates people in power to be more rigorous in their methods. Why would it? They *want* the defendant to be put to death. They're not motivated to examine evidence to clear the defendant.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            "Secondly, just because someone shouldn't have been convicted on the evidence (reasonable doubt), isn't proof of innocence by a long shot."

            Well isn't that convenient? In this country, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

            • Well isn't that convenient?

              Not at all. It's a simple fact.

              Just because X = Y hasn't been adequately proved, doesn't PROVE that X != Y.

              In this country, you're supposed to be innocent until proven guilty.

              For purposes of criminal punishment, that's true. However, that doesn't apply to civil cases, and NOBODY (except trolls feigning ignorance) actually believes not being convicted necessarily means someone must NOT have committed a crime. The justice system doesn't work that way at all.

          • However, it's a horrendously one-sided article, which covers only the incriminating facts that they can later refute, ignoring the rest of the trial as if it didn't exist, in order to make a point.

            How incredibly one sided of them only to show the details that can be refuted...which just happen to be the most damning details in the case. Personally, I think Willingham's life never would've amounted to much. There's a better than fair chance that his death will become much more meaningful for everyone, if it becomes the straw that broke the camel's back on the death penalty in Texas. So at least he's got that going for him.

            • I think the death penalty is a valuable thing; it brings the worst criminals with the most horrible lives to a place where they either reflect and become better people before they die, or they get removed from existence because they're worthless and horrible.

              That being said, the process needs work. Innocent or not, the life and execution of this person has shown many, many flaws in the process; for example, we can't halt the death penalty pending appeals just by showing new, significant evidence. The pro

          • With any luck, this case will have far-reaching implications. At the very least, the judges and governor need to be put on trial for negligent homicide.

            The governor does NOT serve any role in the court system. The fact that he has the opportunity to pardon someone doesn't translate into an obligation for him to determine guilt or innocence.

            To (re)use an incredible cheesy line: "With great power comes great responsibility"

            The governor is the chief executive of the state. If the state is attempting to put a man to death, it is the chief executive's job to be damn sure that the person being put to death is guilty of a crime severe enough to warrant capital punishment.

            The fact that she failed to act on pertinent information is all the more damning.

        • Thanks for posting that. I read the New Yorker article and now can't think about anything but this case.

        • I actually read that article a few days ago, and it was on my mind when I posted.

      • by sconeu ( 64226 )

        Wasn't it Bill Engvall who said that Texas had a "He needed killin'" law?

    • Yes, and: He's a dirty [enter race here] that is ruining [state/country/city name] and [if black Obama will let them go / if other insert sky falling conspiracy / if white say name of residing neighborhood should be burned down].

      I thought this was just my city. A woman was in a bad accident and it became a forum to discuss which race was the superior race... Makes me cringe and also makes me wonder how much the police do watch these boards. Some of the calls for violence and vigilantism are truly illegal.

    • That's odd, the Slashdot crowd usually says the exact same thing about Ballmer.
  • Okay... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by drinkypoo ( 153816 ) <martin.espinoza@gmail.com> on Sunday September 06, 2009 @06:24PM (#29334823) Homepage Journal

    Some examples would be nice, because we can't possibly make a call on the validity of the claim without an example of an applicable comment. Of course, the idea that 300 of the comments are really useful is a dumb one...

    • Re:Okay... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @06:31PM (#29334875) Homepage Journal

      It's just the standard fishing expedition. The defense doesn't HAVE a defense, so they are trying to confuse the issues. Notice that they don't name just a single paper, or a specific number of users or posts. It's a broad sweep with a huge net, meant to pull in a lot of material that will have maximum confusion value.

      • Re:Okay... (Score:4, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 06, 2009 @06:44PM (#29334951)

        I believe I read this on ./ at some point, and it nails this nicely.

        If the facts are against you, bang on the law. If the law is against you, bang on the facts. If both are against you, bang on the table.

        It appears they are banging on the table.

        • by captnbmoore ( 911895 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @07:54PM (#29335445)
          He's trying to not be banged on the table.
          • Re: (Score:1, Redundant)

            by Shikaku ( 1129753 )

            In the prison cell.

          • The Navy Motto"IF it aint broke Fix It"

            If so, things have really changed. Back when I was in Uncle Sam's Navy, sonny, it was "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

        • I believe I read this on ./ at some point, and it nails this nicely.

          If the facts are against you, bang on the law. If the law is against you, bang on the facts. If both are against you, bang on the table.

          It appears they are banging on the table.

          Its a shame that the "If the law is against you..." part of that quote doesn't involve either changing wrongful laws or being responsible for your actions.

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by zippthorne ( 748122 )

            What exactly do you think "bang on the facts" means? It's an argument for jury nullification, that's what.

            • by Kjella ( 173770 )

              What exactly do you think "bang on the facts" means? It's an argument for jury nullification, that's what.

              No, you are ignoring the simplest and correct answer. Bang on the law means "It wasn't illegal". Bang on the facts means "I didn't do it". If you try reading something into the last one except resignation, then maybe it could imply appealing to their emotions. Because that's what jury nullification is, you don't need it unless both the law and the evidence is against you...

            • Having been on a jury, I can safely state that this is not presented as an option within UK courts. Juries are instructed to return the verdicts of guilty or not guilty, and they're too blinded by the posh robes and wigs to think they have any other choice.
          • Whoosh.
            • Whoosh.

              Over your head, or mine? Care to explain?

              From my understanding it is talking about what you would do in court. In this case, bang on facts would mean to try to deceive the court or manipulate the truth. Facts are facts and I have drawn the inference that 'bang on' means 'play with' or 'manipulate' for your advantage.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by drinkypoo ( 153816 )

        It's a broad sweep with a huge net, meant to pull in a lot of material that will have maximum confusion value.

        I think you're probably right, but there are two reasons you might be wrong. The first is that this sort of plan has a high chance to backfire and I'm sure the defense knows this. The second is that a lazy defense might reasonably ask for way more data than they need as a delaying tactic, even if there IS some gold in there. They might have just asked for all comments, lacking an intelligent way to ask for a specific one. That would be ridiculous, but seems like something a less-than-technically-astute lawy

        • Re: (Score:1, Interesting)

          True. Imagine how long it will take the provider to retrieve that sort of data from a technical perspective. If the users only registered their accounts with a hotmail or gmail account, or if all they have is IP data, it could stall the proceedings for months. Who does the burden of correlating IPs to people or accounts fall on? Does the blogging company also have to contact the poster's ISPs, or do they just provide emails and IPs to the legal team?
      • Re:Okay... (Score:5, Funny)

        by DoofusOfDeath ( 636671 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @06:49PM (#29334979)

        SELECT * FROM tbl_Comments
        WHERE userid LIKE '%CHEWBACCA%';

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        To be fair, 300 is not a large number of people, at least not on the scale of Internet comments. Is it likely that all 300 have relevant, original information? No. Is it within the realm of possibility that 295 of the 300 got their information from the same 5 people, and that those 5 people have relevant information? Absolutely.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by e9th ( 652576 )
      Here [chron.com] is an earlier Chronicle article with >300 comments. Decide for yourself how many of them show inside knowledge.
      • Christy1981 on those comments, her comment history constantly contains things like "evil evil witch" and lots of violent statements pertaining to other girls. I do not like this person.
  • by physicsphairy ( 720718 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @06:26PM (#29334841) Homepage

    I'm pretty sure this is the first time people on the internet have ever been accused of disseminating overly-substantial and accurate information.

    But I wonder why this guy did not subpoena the names of any youtube commenters? :/

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      If they have some factual information, they may have more. The defendant's legal team may wish to learn their identities, so the commentors can be subpoena'd for questioning as possible witnesses for trial.

    • So, it's about those who actually know things! Because if they are involved in the lawsuit (e.g. by being the judge etc), then the whole lawsuit's validity can die with it!

      Who cares about some false accusations! It's the likely true ones! ^^

    • Mind you the child had oral and vaginal herpes. This was known, and she wasn't removed from their care. ?_?
  • sigh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wizardforce ( 1005805 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @06:27PM (#29334845) Journal

    Those who comment generally use pseudonyms, and the lawyer has asked for identifying information on about 300 of them.

    how many people would have ersonal knowledge of the case? probably no where near 300 so they're implying that a smaller number of people went out of their way to voice their opinion about the guy. It seems however, that they are on a fishing expedition with suspicions but no evidence at least indicated by TFA.

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      The defense might want to suggest some sort of conspiracy theory planned by 300 internet users to frame the defendant.

      • The defense might want to suggest some sort of conspiracy theory planned by 300 internet users to frame the defendant.

        Or trying to link those users to some common "informant"...

  • FINALLY! A way to return civility to the Interwebs!
  • 300? (Score:3, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 06, 2009 @07:40PM (#29335349)

    THIS.... IS... TEXAS!!!!

    • by Skapare ( 16644 )

      You're saying that in Texas, it would be expected that 300 people would have specific information about a case suitable for the defense attorney to consider using? I can believe that maybe one or two people possibly might. But 300 ??? No, I thing this attorney is building a case to get an appeals court to dismiss for mistrial.

    • No, this is blasphemy. This is madness.

  • Sounds like an attempt to intimidate witnesses.

    • by e9th ( 652576 )
      How so? Would a witness in a case like this expect to testify anonymously?
    • Re: (Score:1, Troll)

      by c6gunner ( 950153 )

      Sounds like an attempt to intimidate witnesses.

      Eh?

      "What's your name, sir?"
      "STOP INTIMIDATING ME!!!"

      Man, you must be a complete pussy.

    • I think the "big net" to subpoena these commenters' identities is a bit disturbing. If I call someone a flaming douche online, it's my opinion. The line separating opinion from slander/libel is becoming blurred because of overt Political Correctness and otherwise rational people being whiny "victims" if it means spanking someone (legally). Like a schoolyard fight trying to get the last "lick" in. :)
  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Sunday September 06, 2009 @11:26PM (#29336613) Homepage Journal

    It's the attorneys job to follow every possible defense. It might get the defendant proven innocent. If he dosn't, it'll be grounds for an appeal based on incompenant defense.

    Seriously, why is there any argument against all the facts being available for a trial? If there is nothing to help him, it'll just ensure his conviction sticks.

  • ... An unbiased jury pool should be of paramount importance in a trial like this. After all, the accused is being called to trial in the state that executes more prisoners than the rest of the country combined.
  • Sounds like he got a court to grant some kind of discovery process for this, but I wonder how far it will go? OK, so he can ask for the information that was collected by the "primary" source - some web logs, probably. This gives you at best an IP address unless there is a specific, confirmed identity required to log in.

    With an IP address he is going to need another round of subpoenas to get the identity from the ISP. Likely as not, unless the ISP is very, very friendly towards criminals he will have to s

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