Social Media Affecting Trials, Witnesses, Prosecutors

You use it to connect with family and friends, post some photos or leave an opinion.

But social media isn’t as much fun for prosecutors, or criminals.

Some are using, others abusing the system and paying for it.
Headlines are all too common on local newscasts, like from KDKA in Pittsburgh.

“They were caught on camera stealing thousands of dollars in cash and items from a local market. They might have gotten away with it if they hadn’t posted it on Facebook.”

Another woman posted a video on Facebook where she was smoking weed and admitting she robbed a bank.

Police logged in after h er. Took her offline and straight to jail.

Facebook being used to help catch criminals
Facebook being used to help catch criminals
Some Criminals post their crimes on Facebook/Twitter, giving police a better chance to find them
Some Criminals post their crimes on Facebook/Twitter, giving police a better chance to find them

“We can use that against them” says Chatham County District Attorney meg Heap. “We appreciate that they put that on Facebook.”

While Chatham County District Attorney Meg Heap says it can help make cases, its also affecting more trials than ever.

“Its being used to influence, intimidate, and maybe even have witnesses fail to show to court or recant,” explains Heap.

Gag order has been a phrase used more and more by Heap’s office.

Including just this week in the case against former SCMPD Detective Kevin Grogan, where the DA is asking Grogan’s lawyer to stop talking about the case, especially on social media.

“The law says you can’t discuss any case, and it really common sense,” explains Heap. “For this criminal justice system to work, its got to work. Me need all the evidence, the whole story, whatever the evidence is, its gotta be in a court of law.”

Heap says her staff checks social media regularly and she wants to add a full time media professional to make sure nothing skips through the cracks. Cracks that could lead to the next crime.

“What you look at when you see these social media pages is you see all of their friends,” says Matt Breedon, Chatham County Special Gang Prosecutor. “You see all of the people they are connected with. What the statistic in all of these places have shown, if someone is involved in a crime their immediate friends, their immediate family are 25-40% more likely to involved in a crime themselves following that. If you know who those people are then we can deploy our assets and see where the next crime is coming from the next retaliation is coming from and try to prevent that.”

Savannah actually has dealt with a suspect who killed a witness in his own trial. That happened just last year.

Heap says anyone who is found to influence witnesses can be charged with a felony and spent 2-10 years behind bars.

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