Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Our Mobile Devices Used Against Us In Court, as Learned in Oscar Pistorius Murder trial

I continue to avidly follow the Oscar Pistorius murder trial going on in South Africa.  A turn the trial took this week though really gave me pause and caused me to reflect on what info police could find on any of our computer devices. This is because it is absolutely amazing what has been uncovered from all of the computers and mobile computer devices that were in the crime scene, his house, that night.

A quick recap, Oscar Pistorius is on trial in South Africa for killing his live-in girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. He was a very successful and idolized Olympic level runner who has artificial legs below the knees. He was aptly named Blade Runner because his running legs look like huge metal blades.  Steenkamp was a college and law school graduate who was working as a model and reality show contestant.  Pistorius admits to shooting through the locked bathroom door four times because he says he thought an intruder was in there. Now for the evidence which is being unearthed from this shadow world of computer based forensics.

Pistorius and Steenkamp were both in their twenties. Thus, using computers and mobile devices was second nature to them. They came of age with these machines, unlike us. Because they were affluent, they owned multiples of these computer based machines.  The night of the murder each of them had his and her iPads and cell phones close to hand. All of these were taken by the police and later examined by forensic experts in crime labs. These experts have been testifying for the prosecution against him.

The most incriminating evidence uncovered were 1,700 digital messages from one to the other. The prosecution's contention that he was a control freak, obsessed by fast cars and guns and was a jealous, almost adolescent boyfriend, suddenly was no longer in doubt as the most incriminating of these was read into evidence. The two of them used WhatsApp message exchanges for their texting. To wit:

January 27, 2013:
Reeva to Oscar:  Today was one of my best friend's engagements and I wanted to stay longer. I was enjoying myself but it's over now. You have picked on me incessantly since you got back from CT (Cape Town) and I understand that you are sick but it's nasty. Yesterday wasn't nice for either of us but we managed to pull through and communicate well enough to show our care for each other is greater than the drama that attacked us. I was not flirting with anyone today. I feel sick that you suggested that and that you made a scene at the table and made us leave early. I'm terribly disappointed in how the day ended and how you left me. We are living in a double standard relationship where you can be mad about how I deal with stuff when you are very quick to act cold and offish when you're unhappy. Every 5 seconds I hear how you dated another chick. You really have dated a lot of people yet you get upset if I mention ONE funny story with a long term boyfriend. I do everything to make you happy and to not say anything to rock the boat with u. You do everything to throw tantrums in front of people. I have been upset by you for 2 days now. I'm so upset I left Darren's party early. SO upset. I can't get that day back. I'm scared of you sometimes and how u snap at me and of how you will react to me. You make me happy 90% of the time and I think we are amazing together but I am not some other bitch you may know trying to kill your vibe. I am the girl who let go with u even when I was scared out of my mind to. I'm the girl who fell in love with u and wanted to tell u this weekend. But I'm also the girl that gets sidestepped when you are in a s**t mood. When I feel you think u have me so why try anymore. I get snapped at and told my accents and voices are annoying. I touch your neck to show u I care and you tell me to stop. Stop chewing gum. Do this don't do that. You don't want to hear stuff cut me off. Your endorsements your reputation your impression of someone innocent blown out of proportion and f***ed up a special day for me. I'm sorry if you truly felt I was hitting on my friend Sam's husband and I'm sorry that u think that little of me. From the outside I think it looks like we are a struggle and maybe that's what we are. I just want to love and be loved. Be happy and make someone SO happy. Maybe we can't do that for each other. Cos right now I know u aren't happy and I am certainly very unhappy and sad.

Oscar to Reeva: I want to talk to you. I want to sort this out. I don't want to have anything less than amazing for you and I. I am sorry for the things I say without thinking and for taking offense to some of your actions. The fact that I'm tired and sick isn't an excuse. I was upset that you just left me after we got food to go talk to a guy and I was standing right behind you watching you touch his arm and ignore me. And when I spoke up you introduced me which you could've done but when I left you just kept on chatting to him when clearly I was upset. I asked Martin to put on that Kendrick Lamar album in the car and don't know it. Granted that it was a s**t song but you should've just lent forward and whispered in my ear to change it seeing as I had to drive to pick up your friend. I was 30 minutes late and I know you don't like it when I drive fast but then you could've asked Gina to drive herself so that we wouldn't have to. When we left I was starving the only good I had had was a tiny wrap and everyone was leaving for lunch. I'm sorry I wanted to go but I was hungry and upset and although you knew it, it wasn't like you came to chat to me when I left the table. I was upset when I left you cos I thought you were coming to me. I'm sorry I asked you to stop tapping my neck yesterday, I know you were just trying to show me love. I had a mad headache and should've just spoken to you softly. In sorry for asking you not to put on an accent last night pretty much the same and didn't have the energy.

February 8, 2013
Reeva to Oscar: I like to believe that I made you proud when I attend these kind of functions with you. I present myself well and can converse with others while you are off busy chatting to fans and friends. I also knew people there tonight and whilst you were having one or two pics taken I was saying goodbye to the people in my industry and Fitz wanted a photo with me. I was just being cordial by saying goodbye whilst you were busy. I completely understood your desperation to leave and thought I would be helping you by getting to the exit before you because I can't rush on the heels I was wearing. I thought it would make a difference in us getting out without you getting harassed anymore. I didn't think you would criticize me for doing that especially not so loudly so that others could hear. I might joke around and be all Tom boyish at times but I regard myself as a lady and I didn't feel like one tonight after the way you treated me when we left. I'm a person too and I appreciate that you invited me out tonight and I realize that you get harassed but I am trying my best to make you happy and I feel as though you sometimes never are, no matter the effort I put in. I can't be attacked by outsiders for dating you and be attacked by you -- the one person I deserve protection from.

end of text messages. He killed her six days later on Feb. 14, 2013.

This was the most damaging evidence uncovered in the messages. Most of the rest were pure drivel, the par it seems for the text messaging world.  Forensic analysis of his iPad showed that he was surfing the web for porn the night he shot her. She had been on social media sites before she was killed and had left that software open on her iPad.  There were bits and pieces of other evidence but nothing of the magnitude of the above two text messages, which clearly gave him a motive for the killing (in his own mind).

It doesn't require much of a leap in imagination to realize what kind of evidence might be uncovered in other types of cases using similar forensic evidence. Thus, contested divorces, child custody disputes, contested Wills and so forth could all contain similar computer based time bombs to be used in court. As you see your child or grandchild texting away like mad 24 hours a day, this risk may suddenly become crystal clear to you. Brave New World indeed.

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