Trenton, N.J.— A New Jersey judge has ordered a teen who accused a man of rape to turn over access to her Facebook account, providing another example of social media’s growing use in courtrooms and the resulting privacy concerns.
Mercer County Superior Court Judge Robert Billmeier this week agreed to a request from David Stevens-Parker’s defense attorney, and the judge said he will review two weeks of Facebook postings for comments related to the alleged rape before deciding whether any can be used in court.
Defense attorney Andrew Ferencevych said he wants to see if there are any hints that the sex was consensual. Stevens-Parker, 22, was charged with providing the then-16-year-old Princeton girl with alcohol before sexually assaulting her in April 2013.
Assistant Prosecutor John Carbonara said Ferencevych cited a state court ruling that allowed a defense attorney to require a victim to submit to an eye exam, but Carbonara argued that ordering the teen to turn over Facebook access was a greater invasion of privacy.
If you asked a typical teen whether having an eye examination or giving over Facebook passwords is more of an invasion, “I guarantee 100 percent of them would say to look at your Facebook,” Carbonara said. “That’s the predominant way they communicate to their friends on a lot of issues.”
Content from social media is routinely used in court, but the New Jersey case is different because it involves a judge ordering an alleged victim to turn over information, said Wendy Patrick, a prosecutor and former chairwoman of the California State Bar ethics committee.
“It’s used all the time and the reason is because the Internet has become a confessional,” Patrick said. “It’s a place where everyone is an open book.”