Evidence suggests potential snags in forensic use of social media

Paul Grimm

U.S. District Court Judge Paul W. Grimm

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.

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Maryland Legal Aid Bureau hosts Pro Bono Days

The Maryland Legal Aid Bureau is sponsoring two Pro Bono Days – free legal clinics - this month. The first will be held this Saturday from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Randallstown branch of the Baltimore County Public Library (8604 Liberty Road in Randallstown). The second will be held next Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Maryland Legal Aid’s Baltimore office (500 E. Lexington Street).

Volunteer attorneys will provide consultations in the areas of divorce and custody, landlord/tenant, wills & advance directives, bankruptcy, expungements, government benefits, criminal and consumer law.

Private lawyers who wish to volunteer their services can call 443-451-2810.

DLA Piper: Hollywood hot spot

On the set of "Whirlwind" at DLA Piper's Baltimore office. (Photo courtesy of DLA Piper.)

Hollywood is back in Baltimore.

Clayton LeBouef, an actor from “The Wire,” filmed scenes from his new movie, called “Whirlwind,” at DLA Piper’s Baltimore office last week in the main reception area.

On “The Wire,” LeBouef played Orlando, a front man who ran a strip club for the Barksdale drug organization. LeBouef is also known for his role as Col. George Barnfather in “Homicide: Life on the Street.”

DLA Piper’s glass office building has been a Hollywood hot spot in recent years. Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s HBO comedy, “Veep,” shot several scenes for its pilot episode at the building. Several scenes in the 2005 movie “Syriana,” starring George Clooney, also were filmed at The Marbury Building at 6225 Smith Ave.

The recent movie shoot at DLA Piper is just one of a number of Charm City’s recent forays into the film industry. In addition to “Veep,” the HBO movie “Game Change,” about John McCain’s and Sarah Palin’s 2008 bid for the presidency and vice presidency, was filmed in Baltimore. (Both “Game Change” and “Veep” won awards at Sunday’s Emmys.)

The Netflix show “House of Cards,” starring Kevin Spacey has also been around town, filming at a sound stage in Edgewood, as well as in the city in places like the Peabody Institute in Mount Vernon.

All are part of an effort by Maryland to boost the film industry in the state.

Law blog roundup

Welcome to this rain-delayed law blog roundup. Hope you brought an umbrella!

  • Michael Radcliffe, a Baltimore County attorney who suffered from ALS, has passed away. Family members paid tribute to him at a memorial service last week. We’ve written a number of stories on Michael and the efforts to raise money in support of ALS research. You can read more about him here.
  • Hey, Scalia, Roberts, Ginsburg, et. al. — think you could clarify your ruling on our Second Amendment rights?
  • Now in the Tenth Circuit, lawyers can strike jurors for their drug reform views in criminal cases.
  • Keeping young associates in line, ethically speaking.
  • Apparently, it can only be employee retaliation if the person actually works for you.
  • Anything — and everything — goes when Howrey auctions off the contents of its old offices on Pennsylvania Avenue Friday. We’re talking leather Chesterfield sofas, built-in cabinets, marble-topped tables, a Blodgett commercial catering oven. You name it, they’ve got it.
  • Did Rachel Maddow defame Christian rocker Bradlee Dean?

Law clerks show their smarts at MSBA

At Thursday’s “Are you smarter than a law clerk?” session at the MSBA conference in Ocean City, Court of Appeals Judge Lynne A. Battaglia’s law clerks proved that they are pretty darn smart.

They answered all but one question correctly. Even the one they got wrong they originally got right; they just waffled in the end and answered “yes” instead of “it depends.”

Playing the role of Vanna White, Battaglia (pronounced the Italian way, with no hard “g” sound as she informed the crowd) showed off towels and mugs stamped “Smarter Than A Law Clerk.” Panelist James Archibald of Venable LLP in Baltimore provided the prizes.

Lunch was provided by panelist Paul Mark Sandler, name partner of the Baltimore firm Shapiro Sher Guinot & Sandler. Hilariously grouchy comments provided by the third panelist, retired Baltimore County Circuit Judge John Fader II, who said every time he attends the MSBA conference he sees people who don’t need to be there and then returns to the courtroom and sees all of the attorneys who should have gone.

The session often felt like comedy hour, with audience members yelling out to Battaglia, “What would the Court of Appeals say?” She demurred, saying, “You know I never give out advisory opinions.”

Sandler playfully tangled with Battaglia over her decision in Griffin v. State this year that left the tech-loving Sandler disappointed.

He also got into it with Fader over a British murder case from the 1800s that led to attorneys being allowed to hear confessions from their clients and then turn around and cross-examine other suspects on the stand to lead jurors to believe that the other suspect was the murderer. Fader said he didn’t like that ruling and that it shouldn’t be the law.

“Everybody’s wrong,” Fader said, “except for the people who believe the way I do.”

Law blog roundup

Welcome to a special Tuesday edition of the law blog roundup. Hope you enjoyed your long weekend. Let’s get to the links.

  • Woman finds way to reach teens in the Baltimore City Detention Center.
  • Regular readers of The Daily Record will recognize this story of the doctor vs. the drinkers. (See Tiki Bar photo above).
  • Reminiscing on judges and past presidents of the Baltimore County Bar Association.
  • Do law schools game the job numbers? One San Diego law school grad thinks so.
  • My article today looks at the job market for recent law school grads. It’s not pretty out there, but here are some tips to make job candidates stand out from the associate director for employee relations at Brooklyn Law School.
  • Meanwhile, Carolyn Elefant advises lawyers on how to avoid lousy law jobs.
  • The man who calls himself the toughest sheriff in America has some personnel issues — three members of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s staff have been arrested on drug and human trafficking charges, including one who is allegedly eight months pregnant with the child of a drug lord. Drama.

Law blog roundup

Happy bright and sunny Monday morning. Enjoy the sunshine while it lasts.

  • Byron Warnken weighs in on same-sex marriage.
  • In an interview a couple weeks ago, DLA Piper Chairman Frank Burch told me not to believe everything I read when I asked about the reported $5 million payday it had offered to new hire James Wareham. AM Law Daily breaks down the history of the firm’s $5 million man.
  • Speaking of DLA, word has it that one Julia Louis-Dreyfus will be stopping by the firm’s Mt. Washington office to film her HBO pilot, Veep. George Clooney’s movie Syriana also filmed at DLA’s Baltimore office.
  • Fighting fair could save a marriage from divorce.
  • Recounting Spiro Agnew’s fall from grace.
  • Dish Network will have to put Elmo before American Idol.
  • As partners continue to depart from Howrey, the Washington Post offers its take on the firm’s downward spiral and its efforts to find a new balance.

Law blog roundup: Down year for Maryland copyright litigation

Welcome back to the roundup on this frigid Monday morning. Here are some law links to peruse while you defrost.

Law blog roundup

For those of you at work on this chilly Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, enjoy the law links below:

  • Are we continuing to address civil rights struggles the way Dr. King would?
  • A blogger takes issue with an editorial in The Daily Record.
  • The warden and seven other employees at Central Booking have been suspended.
  • Paul Mark Sandler tackles the Legal Aid funding issue.
  • Blackmail + child pornography + the practice of law = a bad idea
  • Baltimore County Circuit Court had its own version of the Iron Man on its staff. Chief Deputy Clerk Billy Allen wasn’t a slugger, but he held his position for 56 years.
  • Golden Globes publicists say they got canned because they warned the Hollywood Foreign Press Association to stop taking “payola.”

Law blog roundup

Still upset about last night’s game? Just getting to work now because of last night’s game? Here are some links to take your mind off it.