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Is Reading Spouse's E-Mail a Crime? 496

Hugh Pickens writes "The Detroit Free Press reports that Leon Walker is charged with unlawfully reading the e-mail of Ciara Walker, his wife at that time, which showed she was having an affair with her second husband, who once had been arrested for beating her in front of her son. Walker says he gave the e-mails to her first husband, the child's father, to protect the boy. 'I was doing what I had to do,' says Walker. 'We're talking about putting a child in danger.' Now prosecutors, relying on a Michigan statute typically used to prosecute crimes such as identity theft or stealing trade secrets, have charged Leon Walker with a felony for logging onto a laptop in the home he shared with his wife. Prosecutor Jessica Cooper defended her decision to charge Walker. 'The guy is a hacker,' says Cooper, adding that the Gmail account 'was password protected, he had wonderful skills, and was highly trained. Then he downloaded [the emails] and used them in a very contentious way.'"
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Is Reading Spouse's E-Mail a Crime?

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  • Depends on prenap (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mapkinase ( 958129 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @09:03AM (#34675328) Homepage Journal

    If they agreed that their correspondence is not private from each other in a marriage contract, then it is not.

  • by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @09:17AM (#34675386)
    I don't think so. US Postal regulations forbid anyone other than the recipient to open the letter, until delivery. Once a letter is delivered, they don't care what happens to it. After all, I throw out junk mail addressed to my wife. Is that also a crime?
  • Stupid prosecution (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @09:35AM (#34675468)
    I think it is ridiculous that this is being brought as a criminal prosecution. If his ex-wife had brought a civil suit, I would still think he should win, but that would be a sensible case. The man's fear of the child being exposed to domestic violence (possibly even physical abuse of the child) was perfectly legitimate. I would really like to know why the prosecutor is really going after this man. It sounds personal.
  • by cob666 ( 656740 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @09:38AM (#34675486) Homepage
    Imagine if the second husband DID assault the child? Then the new husband would be in trouble for NOT doing anything to prevent this atrocious act.

    Funny that when we actually SHOULD be thinking about the children something else gets in the way.
  • by vlm ( 69642 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @10:39AM (#34675880)

    It is unless your spouse is your property.

    Actually that's a pretty good first level short summary analysis of tax law, inheritance law, bankruptcy law (depending a bit on state), several legal liability issues, some real estate and titled property law (think "car title"), a wide variety of medical ethics law such as DNR orders, and how the right of self incrimination at least somewhat extends to spouses in court. There are probably other areas but thats just off the top of my head.

    Being a summary, means only an idiot would think it is the entire story for all situations, but it IS pretty much the base assumption of a heck of a lot of law, its the assumption you should start with and then refine. Following the rules of the game doesn't mean you like either the rules of the game or playing the game, it just means... you're following the rules of the game... Thats all I mean, not that I agree with it.

    So, enough fact, now some opinion, which is, at the core of it, the big problem with the whole gay marriage thing, is that a basic right of many of our laws is being denied to people pretty much because "a living dude, whom pompously claims to speak for a powerful invisible unprovable guy in the sky, claims some people are bad because of how the guy in the sky made them, yet both the dude doing the talking and the guy in the sky are so incredibly weak and unimportant that they can't actually do anything about the people they don't like, so we'd like a law so policemen with guns can force them to live under our sad, twisted worldview" Not that I am showing any bias about that issue, naaaaaah.

  • by Registered Coward v2 ( 447531 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @10:53AM (#34675976)
    This would seem like a classic ad - "XX wants to protect child abusers...prosecuted someone for warning a parent of potential abuse...weak on crime...wrong then, and wrong for MI..."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 27, 2010 @11:00AM (#34676030)
    Here is another case where she made a big mistake, was proven wrong by evidence and wouldn't admit that she made a mistake. http://www.mlive.com/news/detroit/index.ssf/2010/09/did_oakland_county_prosecutor.html [mlive.com] http://www.myfoxdetroit.com/dpp/news/local/prosecutor-laura-johnson-freed-murder-evidence-not-enough-20100927-wpms [myfoxdetroit.com]
  • My wife doesn't know any of my passwords, and I don't know any of hers. However, I do have an escrow file which she can open in the event of my death which contains them all.

    She will need access to banking sites etc. when that happens, so privacy until then, and full disclosure after.

  • by Runaway1956 ( 1322357 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @11:22AM (#34676212) Homepage Journal
    How about a more common sense approach to the question? When you're married, what's yours is hers, what's hers is hers, and what's our's is hers. That's the way it's always been, unless prenuptuals were signed. My wife opens all my mail - for the most part, I never bother looking at it. I routinely open mail that has her name on it - especially if she isn't home for a couple of days. Something may need to be brought to her attention, for pity's sake! Not to mention that ALL of my dealings are her business, and ALL of her dealings are my business. Marriage. I'm responsible for her, she's responsible for me, we're a team, a partnership. Only if, and when, an announcement of separation and/or impending divorce is made, are the married couple no longer a team or a partnership. AT THAT POINT IN TIME, then yes, it should become illegal to open his/her mail, or to tamper with his/her finances, property, or whatever. Oh yeah. The article mentioned that she was having an affair? That is most definitely the husband's legitimate concern. He has the right to know that the ho is cheating on him. And, also, a child's welfare was mentioned as the reason for forwarding the emails to a third party? Extenuating circumstances. It's ILLEGAL for a large percentage of the population to FAIL to report possible child abuse and endangerment. Hacking? Horse shit. I've read nothing to indicate that the guy didn't just GUESS the Gmail password. Hacking. My ass. Stupid bitch who is prosecuting him doesn't have a clue what hacking is all about.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 27, 2010 @12:06PM (#34676598)

    This reeks of a racially motivated prosecution, quite honestly.

  • by easterberry ( 1826250 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @12:10PM (#34676634)

    Santa Letters in Canada are distributed to volunteers (mostly post office staff and the family thereof) who read them and write responses according to specific sets of rules and guidelines. My family does it every year since my father's a post man. It's fun.

  • by Nursie ( 632944 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @01:15PM (#34677250)

    My wife has all my passwords: email, login, local admin, server roots, domain, banking logins, etc, etc. I gave them to her especially BECAUSE I trust her.

    Did you do that because you wanted to or because she asked and made it into a trust issue?

  • by BlueStrat ( 756137 ) on Monday December 27, 2010 @02:28PM (#34677854)

    So no. He didn't "guess" the password. He didn't have to--she gave it to him. By this lawyer's logic, someone who enters a building via a door that has the word "PUSH" written on it is a master catburglar.

    My guess is that the female prosecutor has a vicarious emotional stake in this case. The prosecutor herself likely has either gone through a contentious divorce, and/or got caught cheating herself.

    If I were the defense counsel, I'd have investigators looking more at the *prosecutor's* past marital/relationship history, rather than the defense's client or the prosecution's witness. There's probably some dirt there that makes the pursuit of this case in this manner by the prosecutor make a lot more sense.


  • Again, don't be an ass.

    Is this compatible with a technical discussion about law ?

    Absolutely! The best laws are ones where common sense prevails, and where somebody being an ass is laughed out of the courtroom. If you can clearly demonstrate to a judge that the opposing counsel is being an ass, they most certainly have proven that they have lost the argument.

    Fortunately it is the person who responds with name calling because they lack other tools to demonstrate the benefits with their side of the argument who most often loses, but that isn't always the case as is most certainly true here. The advise to not "be an ass" is certainly most appropriate in this context, although the point could have been proven without such language.

    Certainly a spouse is given extra consideration in such a context like reading mail that isn't normally afforded even a supervisor or landlord. If your employer can read your e-mail with impunity, the same argument can be used with a spouse. This prosecution, if successful, has some major legal consequences if it gets anywhere near to common law status for more than a single courtroom.

The intelligence of any discussion diminishes with the square of the number of participants. -- Adam Walinsky