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Tienda v State Pd-0312-11

Tienda v State Pd-0312-11

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5/31/12TIENDA v. State, Tex: Court of Criminal Appeals 2012 - Google Scholar1/8scholar.google.com/scholar_case?q=PD-0312-11+&hl=en&as_sdt=4,240&case=30439392876186276…
RONNIETIENDA,JR.,Appellant,v.THESTATEOFTEXAS.
No.PD-0312-11.Delivered:February8,2012.
CourtofCriminalAppealsofTexas.
OPINION
PRICE,J.,deliveredtheopinionforaunanimousCourt.Theappellantwasconvictedofmurder.
[1]
Hepledtruetooneenhancementcount,andthejuryassessedpunishmentatthirty-fiveyears'imprisonment.Inanunpublishedopinion,theFifthCourtofAppealsaffirmedtheappellant'sconviction,holdingthatthetrialcourtdidnotabuseitsdiscretioninadmittingevidencefromMySpacepagesthattheStatebelievedwerecreatedbytheappellant.
[2]
Wewillaffirmthejudgmentofthecourtofappeals.
FACTSANDPROCEDURALPOSTURE
DavidValadezandhistwopassengerswerethetargetsofamultiplecarshootoutwhiledrivingsouthboundinDallasonI-35EtowardsI-30.Theshootingwasapparentlytheproductofsometensiondisplayedbetweentworivalgroupsatanightclubearlierthatevening,wheremembersoftheappellant'sgroupwere"throwing"gangsignsand"talkingnoise"toValadezandhisfriends.ShortlyafterValadezandhispassengersleftonenightclubtoheadtoanother"afterhours"club,Valadez'scarunexpectedlycameundergunfirefromacaravanofthreeorfourcarsalsotravelingsouthboundonI-35EtowardsI-30.Theappellantwasapassengerinoneofthecarsinthecaravan.Testimonyattrialastotheappellant'sspecificinvolvementintheshootingvariedwidely.Thewitnessesagreedthattheappellantwasatleastpresentduringtheshooting;however,therewasinconsistenttestimonyastowhofiredthefirstgunshots,whethertheappellantwasseenmerelyholdingagunoractuallyfiringaweapon,whichcartheappellantwasridingin,andfromwhichcarthefatalshotswerefired.Duringtheexchangeof fire,Valadezwasshottwice,causinghimtolosecontrolandcrashhisvehicleintothehighway'scenterconcretedivider.Valadezdiedasaresultof thegunshotwoundsshortlyafterbeingtakentoanearbyhospital.Althoughcartridgecasingsconsistentwithatleasttwoweaponswerefoundatthesceneoftheshooting,thebulletrecoveredfromthedeceased'sbodycouldnotbematchedtoaparticularweapon,asnofirearmswereever recovered.DuringpreparationoftheState'scaseagainsttheappellant,thedeceased'ssister,PriscillaPalomo,providedtheStatewithinformationregardingthreeMySpaceprofilepagesthatshebelievedtheappellantwasresponsibleforregisteringandmaintaining.
[3]
AftersubpoenaingMySpace.comfor thegeneral"SubscriberReport"associatedwitheachprofileaccount,theStateprintedoutimagesofeachprofilepagedirectlyfromtheMySpace.comwebsite,andthenmarkedtheprofilepagesandrelatedcontentasState'sexhibitsfortrial.TheStateusedPalomoasthesponsoringwitnessfortheseMySpaceaccountsatguilt/innocence,and,overtheappellant'srunningobjectionastotheauthenticityoftheprofilepages,theStatewaspermittedtoadmitintoevidencethenamesandaccountinformationassociatedwiththeprofiles,photospostedontheprofiles,commentsandinstantmessageslinkedtotheaccounts,andtwomusiclinkspostedtotheprofilepages.TheStatehadPalomoexplainhowshecameacrosstheprofilesandbroughtthemtotheattentionoftheprosecutor.Thetrialjudgesustainedtheappellant'sfirstauthenticationobjectionwhentheprosecutorbeganaskingPalomoquestionsaboutthespecificcontentoftheMySpaceprofilespriortointroducinganyexhibitsintoevidence.Afterabriefsidebarconferenceatthebenchwithdefensecounselofftherecord,theprosecutor markedtherelevantMySpaceprofileprintoutsasnumberedState'sexhibitsandhadPalomoidentifytheprintoutsastheprofilesshehadfoundonMySpace.TheprosecutoralsoofferedintoevidencethesubscriberreportsandaccompanyingaffidavitssubpoenaedfromMySpace.
[4]
Thejudgethenadmittedtheprintoutsoftheprofiles,overtheappellant'sobjectionthattheStatestillhadnotlaidtheproperpredicatetoprovethattheprofileswereinfactwhattheStatepurportedthemtobe,namely,declarationsthattheappellanthimselfhadpostedonhispersonalMySpacepages. Accordingtothesubscriberreports,twooftheMySpaceaccountswerecreatedbya"RonMr.T,"andthethirdby"SmileyFace,"whichistheappellant'swidely-knownnickname.Theaccountholderpurportedtolivein"DTOWN,"or"dallas,"andregisteredtheaccountswitha"ronnietiendajr@"or"smileys_shit@"emailaddress.TheStateintroducedmultiplephotos"tagged"totheseaccountsbecausethepersonwhoappearedinthepicturesatleastresembledtheappellant.Thepersonisshowndisplayinggang-affiliatedtattoosandmakinggang-relatedgestureswithhishands.ThemainprofilepagesoftheMySpaceaccountscontainedquotesboasting"YouaintBLASTINYouaintLastin"and"Ilivetostayfresh!!Ikilltostayrich!!"Undertheheading"RIPDavidValadez"wasalinktoasongthatwasplayedbyValadez'scousinatValadez'sfuneral.Anothermusiclinkpostedtooneoftheprofileswasasongtitled"IStillKill."Theinstantmessagesexchangedbetweentheaccountholderandotherunidentified
 
5/31/12TIENDA v. State, Tex: Court of Criminal Appeals 2012 - Google Scholar2/8scholar.google.com/scholar_case?q=PD-0312-11+&hl=en&as_sdt=4,240&case=30439392876186276…
MySpaceusersincludedspecificreferencestootherpassengerspresentduringtheshooting,circumstancessurroundingtheshooting,anddetailsabouttheState'sinvestigationfollowingtheshooting.Theauthorofthemessagesmadespecificthreatstothosewhohadbeen"snitchin"and"dontrunshitbuttheymouth,"assigningblametoothersforbeingthe"onlyreasonimonlockdownandhavethisshitonmyback."Theauthoralsogenerallyboastedtoanotheruserthat"WUTGOESAROUNDCOMESAROUND"and"UKNOHOWWEDO,WEDON'TCHASEEMWEREPALCEEM."Theauthoraccused:"EVERYONEWUZBUSTINANDTHEYONLYTOLDONME."Severaloftheinstantmessagesalsocomplainedabouttheauthor'selectronicmonitor,whichwasaconditionoftheappellant'shousearrestwhileawaitingtrial.
[5]
TheStateelicitedadditionaltestimonyconcerningtheMySpacepagesthroughaDallasPoliceDepartmentgangunitofficer,DetectiveDanielTorres,duringguilt/innocenceandthroughValadez'smotherduringpunishment.Theofficertestifiedregardingthecommonuseofsocialnetworkingmedia,suchasMySpace,bygangstostayintouchwithmembersandto"promote"theirgangsbybraggingaboutparticipationingang-relatedactivities.Atpunishment,Valadez'smotherwaspermittedtotestifyabouthow"devastated"sheandherfamilywerewhentheyfoundtheappellant'smusiclinkonhisprofilepagewiththetitle"RIPDavidValadez,"whichinhereyeswastheappellant'swayofbraggingaboutkillingher sonthroughthesongthatwasplayedathismemorial.Theappellantrepeatedlyobjected,duringbothstagesoftrial,onthebasisofimproper authentication,hearsay,andrelevance.ThroughcrossexaminationofPalomo,defensecounselelicitedtestimonyregardingtheeasewithwhichapersoncouldcreateaMySpacepageinsomeoneelse'snameandthensendmessages,purportedlywrittenbythepersonreflectedintheprofilepicture,withouttheirapproval.Defensecounselemphasizedthatanycase-specificfactsthatwerereferencedintheMySpacemessagesassociatedwiththeseaccountswerenotfactssolelywithinthedefendant'sknowledge,butwereknowntothedeceased'sfamily,friends,andpracticallyanyotherthirdpartyinterestedinthecase.Althoughthegangofficer,Torres,testifiedtohavingpriorexperienceusingMySpacetoinvestigategang-relatedactivity,whenaskedoncrossexaminationwhetherhehadanyparticularknowledgeregardinghowaMySpaceaccountiscreated,hestated:"None,whatsoever."Theofficer acknowledgedthatanyonecouldcreateaMySpacepage,buthehadnevercreatedonehimself.Duringtheappellant'sguilt/innocenceclosingargument,counselagainemphasizedtheeasewithwhichaMySpaceaccountcouldbecreatedor accessedwithoutsomeone'sapprovalandhighlightedtheState'sfailuretoprovethattheaccountswerecreatedbytheappellantthroughanytechnologicalorexpertevidence,forexample,bytracingtheIPaddresslistedinthesubscriberreporttotheappellant'spersonalcomputer.Insum,defensecounselarguedthattheMySpaceevidencewasneverauthenticatedandwasnotcredibleevidencethatthejuryshouldconsiderinsupportingaguiltyverdict.TheState'sclosingargumentsduringbothphasesoftrialincludedmultipleMySpacereferencesandspecificquotesfromtheprofilepages.Thejuryfoundtheappellantguiltyandassessedpunishmentatthirty-fiveyearsinprison.Onappeal,theappellantarguedthatthetrialcourterredinoverrulinghisobjectionstotheMySpaceevidence.Thecourtofappealsfoundsufficient"individualization"inthecommentsandphotosontheMySpacepagestosatisfythefactorslaidoutinTexasRuleofEvidence901(b)(4)andadmittheevidenceasa"conditionalfactofauthentication"tosupporta"findingthatthepersondepictedsuppliedtheinformation."
[6]
Insoruling,thecourtofappealsreliedforauthoritysolelyupontheopinionofanintermediateappellatecourtinMarylandthathassincebeenreversed,astheappellantemphasizesnowinhisbriefonthemeritsbeforethisCourt,bythatstate'shighestappellatecourt.
[7]
Wegrantedtheappellant'spetitionfor discretionaryreviewtodeterminewhetherthecourtofappealserredinholdingthatthetrialcourtdidnotabuseitsdiscretioninfindingthattheMySpaceprofileswereproperlyauthenticated.Wenowaffirm.
THEARGUMENTSANDTHELAWOFAUTHENTICATIONTheArgumentsoftheParties
Inhisonlyissuefordiscretionaryreview,theappellantcontendsthatthetrialcourterredinadmittingintoevidencetheelectroniccontentobtainedfromMySpaceduringboththeguilt/innocenceandpunishmentphasesofhistrial.TheappellantbroadlyarguesthattheStatefailedtoproperlyauthenticateanyoftheevidenceprintedfromthesocialnetworkingwebsite;andmorespecifically,thatthe"contentsofawebsitecannotauthenticatethewebsite"itself.
[8]
Inotherwords,hecomplainsthattheStatedidnotprovethathewasresponsibleforcreatingandmaintainingthecontentoftheMySpacepagesbymerelypresentingthephotosandquotesfromthewebsitethattendedtorelatetohim.Therefore,theappellantconcludes,thetrialcourterredinoverrulinghisrunningobjectionsunderTexasRulesofEvidenceRule901,
[9]
andthecourtofappealsshouldnothaveaffirmeditsruling.TheStatecontends,inopposition,thatthecontentsofthesocialnetworkingpagesinthiscasecontainedsufficientlydistinctiveinformationtojustifyconditionallysubmittingthemtothejuryforitsultimatefindingwhether"thematterinquestioniswhatitsproponentclaims"
[10]
—here,thattheMySpacepageswerecreatedandmaintainedbytheappellant.Thespecificityofthecontent,whichtheStatecharacterizedas"admissions"bytheappellant,wassufficienttotiehimtothisparticularevidenceandallowthejurytoconsideritforthatpurpose.
[11]
Ataminimum,theStateargues,thetrialcourt'sdecisionwas"withinthezoneofreasonabledisagreement"andthereforeshouldnotbedisturbedonappeal.
[12]
StandardofReviewandApplicableLaw
UnderTexasRulesofEvidenceRule104(a),whetherornottoadmitevidenceattrialisapreliminaryquestiontobedecidedbythecourt.
[13]
Abedrockconditionofadmissibilityofevidenceinanylegalcontestisitsrelevancetoanissueinthecase—thatistosay,itstendencytomakeafact
 
5/31/12TIENDA v. State, Tex: Court of Criminal Appeals 2012 - Google Scholar3/8scholar.google.com/scholar_case?q=PD-0312-11+&hl=en&as_sdt=4,240&case=30439392876186276…
ofconsequencetodeterminationoftheactionmoreorlessprobable.
[14]
Evidencehasnorelevanceifitisnotauthenticallywhatitsproponentclaimsittobe.Rule901(a)oftheRulesofEvidencedefinesauthenticationasa"conditionprecedent"toadmissibilityofevidencethatrequirestheproponenttomakeathresholdshowingthatwouldbe"sufficienttosupportafindingthatthematterinquestioniswhatitsproponentclaims."
[15]
WhethertheproponenthascrossedthisthresholdasrequiredbyRule901isoneofthepreliminaryquestionsofadmissibilitycontemplatedbyRule104(a).
[16]
Thetrialcourtshouldadmitprofferedevidence"upon,orsubjecttotheintroductionofevidencesufficienttosupportafindingof"authenticity.
[17]
Theultimatequestionwhetheranitemofevidenceiswhatitsproponentclaimsthenbecomesaquestionforthefact-finder—the jury,inajurytrial.
[18]
InperformingitsRule104gate-keepingfunction,thetrialcourtitselfneednotbepersuadedthattheprofferedevidenceisauthentic.Thepreliminaryquestionforthetrialcourttodecideissimplywhethertheproponentoftheevidencehassuppliedfactsthataresufficienttosupportareasonablejurydeterminationthattheevidencehehasprofferedisauthentic.
[19]
 Appellatereviewofatrialcourt'srulingonsuchapreliminaryquestionofadmissibilityisdeferential;thestandardisabuseofdiscretion.
[20]
Ifthetrialcourt'srulingthatajurycouldreasonablyfindprofferedevidenceauthenticisatleast"withinthezoneofreasonabledisagreement,"areviewingcourtshouldnotinterfere.
[21]
Evidencemaybeauthenticatedinanumberofways,includingbydirecttestimonyfromawitnesswithpersonalknowledge,bycomparisonwithotherauthenticatedevidence,orbycircumstantialevidence.
[22]
Courtsandlegalcommentatorshavereachedavirtualconsensusthat,althoughrapidlydevelopingelectroniccommunicationstechnologyoftenpresentsnewandproteanissueswithrespecttotheadmissibilityofelectronicallygenerated,transmittedand/orstoredinformation,includinginformationfoundonsocialnetworkingwebsites,therulesofevidencealreadyinplacefordeterminingauthenticityareatleastgenerally"adequatetothetask."
[23]
Widelyregardedasthewatershedopinionwithrespecttotheadmissibilityofvariousformsofelectronicallystoredand/ortransmittedinformationis
Lorrainev.MarkelAmericanInsuranceCo.
[24]
Therethefederalmagistratejudgeobservedthat"anyseriousconsiderationoftherequirementtoauthenticateelectronicevidenceneedstoacknowledgethat,giventhewidediversityofsuchevidence,thereisnosingleapproachtoauthenticationthatwillworkinallinstances."
[25]
Rather,aswiththeauthenticationofanykindofprofferedevidence,thebestormostappropriatemethodforauthenticatingelectronicevidencewilloftendependuponthenatureoftheevidenceandthecircumstancesoftheparticularcase.
[26]
LikeourowncourtsofappealshereinTexas,
[27]
jurisdictionsacrossthecountryhaverecognizedthatelectronicevidencemaybeauthenticatedinanumberofdifferentwaysconsistentwithFederalRule901anditsvariousstateanalogs.Printoutsofemails,internetchatroomdialogues,andcellularphonetextmessageshaveallbeenadmittedintoevidencewhenfoundtobesufficientlylinkedtothepurportedauthorsoastojustifysubmissiontothejuryforitsultimatedeterminationofauthenticity.
[28]
Suchprimafacieauthenticationhastakenvariousforms.Insomecases,thepurportedsenderactuallyadmittedtoauthorship,eitherinwholeorinpart,
[29]
orwasseencomposingit.
[30]
Inothers,thebusinessrecordsofaninternetserviceprovideroracellphonecompanyhaveshownthatthemessageoriginatedwiththepurportedsender'spersonalcomputerorcellphoneundercircumstancesinwhichitisreasonabletobelievethatonlythepurportedsenderwouldhavehadaccesstothecomputerorcellphone.
[31]
Sometimesthecommunicationhascontainedinformationthatonlythepurportedsendercouldbeexpectedtoknow.
[32]
Sometimesthepurportedsenderhasrespondedtoanexchangeofelectroniccommunicationsinsuchawayastoindicatecircumstantiallythathewasinfacttheauthoroftheparticularcommunication,theauthenticationofwhichisinissue.
[33]
Andsometimesothercircumstances,peculiartothefactsoftheparticularcase,havesufficedtoestablishatleastaprimafacieshowingofauthentication.
[34]
However,mindfulthattheprovenanceofsuchelectronicwritingscansometimesbeopentoquestion—computerscanbehacked,protectedpasswordscanbecompromised,andcellphonescanbepurloined—courtsinothercaseshaveheldthatnoteventheprimafaciedemonstrationrequiredtosubmittheissueofauthenticationtothejuryhasbeensatisfied.
[35]
Thatanemailonitsfacepurportstocomefromacertainperson'semailaddress,thattherespondentinaninternetchatroomdialoguepurportstoidentifyhimself,orthatatextmessageemanatesfromacellphonenumberassignedtothepurportedauthor—noneofthesecircumstances,withoutmore,hastypicallybeenregardedassufficienttosupportafindingofauthenticity.
[36]
ANALYSIS
Inthiscase,theinternalcontentoftheMySpacepostings—photographs,comments,andmusic—wassufficientcircumstantialevidencetoestablishaprimafaciecasesuchthatareasonablejurorcouldhavefoundthattheywerecreatedandmaintainedbytheappellant.Thatcircumstantialevidenceincluded:•ThefirstMySpacebusinessrecordI.D.is#XXXXXXXXX.TheofficialMySpaceSubscriberReportliststheUseras"FirstName:ron;LastName:mr.t"withanemailaddressof"smileys_shit@."[Witnessestestifiedthattheappellant'snick-nameis"Smiley."]Thecityislistedas"DTOWN."•TheSubscriberReportforMySpaceUser#XXXXXXXXXliststheowneras"FirstName:ron;Lastname:Mr.T"withanemailaddressof"ronnietiendajr@."AswiththefirstMySpacelisting,thecityforthislistingis"D*Town."Thezipcodeis75212.•TheSubscriberReportforMySpaceUser#XXXXXXXXXliststheowneras"FirstName:SMILEY;LastName:FACE"withanemailaddressofronnietiendajr@.Thecityforthislistingis"dallas"andthezipcodeis75212.

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