It’s one thing to hear lawyers talk about the “CSI effect,” where jurors expect to see prosecutors present the high-tech evidence that regularly cracks cases on television.
It’s another thing to hear one of the foremost authorities on evidence and discovery say it.
“It’s more powerful than a great opening statement or a tear-inducing closing,” U.S. District Court Judge Paul W. Grimm told a packed seminar during the Maryland State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting in Ocean City.
The Criminal Law and Practice Section’s panel mixed a discussion of the newest technologies with references to Popeye, Mr. Peabody and several utterances of the phrase “if you are of a certain age.”
Those of a certain age could recall where prosecutors needed someone on the witness stand to identify the suspect as the person who committed the crime.
Now, “cell phones are the new, best way to solve crimes,” said Baltimore County State’s Attorney Scott Shellenberger. The first three questions investigators ask a suspect is for his name, if he has a cellphone and if he always has his cellphone on him, he added.
Shellenberger described a case where four people were convicted in connection with a murder based on a suspect’s cellphone address book and recent calls. Surveillance cameras helped corroborate the defendants were at the scene of a crime.
In another case, Baltimore County prosecutors were able to obtain a murder conviction by mapping the victim’s and defendant’s cellphone “pings” to cell phone towers to prove they were in the same location at the same time.
“Technology not only solved the crime, it proved the crime,” he said.