In a recent appellate opinion, a New York court was asked to decide whether the prosecution had provided an adequate foundation during trial to authenticate a photograph that purportedly depicted the defendant brandishing a gun and money, which was obtained from a social media profile on the internet that allegedly belonged to the defendant. The background of the case is as follows. The defendant was convicted of two counts of robbery during a jury trial. A witness testified at trial regarding events surrounding the robbery. The witness stated that the incident occurred while he was making milk deliveries and that at one point he observed an individual holding a gun roughly one foot away from the victim’s chest. The victim and the individual brandishing the gun exchanged words, the victim threw a handful of cash from his pocket onto the ground, and the individual and his accomplice fled after collecting the money.
After the witness concluded this testimony, the prosecution informed the court that it intended to introduce a photograph located “on the internet” that purportedly showed the defendant holding a handgun. The prosecution indicated that the victim could identify the firearm in the internet photo because the same weapon was used during the robbery and that a detective could identify the defendant as the person who committed the robbery.
The defendant objected, stating that the prosecution failed to create an adequate foundation to authenticate the photograph as an accurate and fair depiction of the defendant holding the gun, or to show that the photograph had not been modified. The prosecution rebutted this assertion by stating that the foundation would be provided through proof that the picture was obtained from a public web page that included an internet profile name with the defendant’s surname and additional photographs depicting the defendant. The lower court ruled that the prosecution had provided an appropriate foundation and that the photograph could be admitted. The matter proceeded, and the defendant was ultimately found guilty on two counts of robbery.