August 19, 2013 Top Story

Facebook Messages Admissible under Traditional Evidence Rules

State appellate court finds that messages are authentic and not hearsay

Lisa R. Hasday

A witness may authenticate Facebook messages through testimony alone that the messages are what they purport to be, the Mississippi Court of Appeals held in a recent decision [PDF]. The court also found that the Facebook messages that are automatically generated are not hearsay because they are not statements made by a person. The ruling continues the trend toward subjecting social media posts to traditional evidentiary principles.

Three Messages at Issue

In Smith v. State, a capital murder case, the prosecution sought to introduce three Facebook messages, which appeared to be exchanged between the defendant and the 17-month-old victim’s mother, whom the defendant had recently married. The prosecution contended that two of the three messages were sent by the defendant, who was not the child’s father, and demonstrated his anger about caring for the child while the mother worked and expressed his feeling that he “will hurt someone.”

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