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Social Media as an Integral Part of Case Investigation

By Clayton T. Robertson (Criminal Defense / Civil Litigation Attorney)


Does your attorney have an investigative mindset?


I've taken on cases from other attorneys who have done little or no investigation. In one instance, it was indisputedly "ineffective assistance of counsel" due to the seriousness of the case.


There are few cases -- with some exceptions -- in which some investigation is not merited, even it's for the purpose of mitigating the offense as part of your attorney's negotiations with the prosecutor.


For those attorneys, like me, who are obsessed with social media as an integral part of investigating a case -- including "backgrounding" complaining witnesses (i.e., victims), law enforcement, and other witnesses, or searching for posts about the incident, or locating other witnesses -- there are several useful sites or approaches.


For lawyers and their investigators, one very good site is skopenow.com.


To do it the old-fashioned way, you can run a search within each social-media platform (e.g., Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.) for the person of interest. You should take screenshots of the relevant content. This also helps you locate other possible witnesses depending on who comments (or who is the person's friend or connection). You may also find content that casts doubt on the person's credibility.


There are publicly-available (free) search sites that focus on just social media. Two helpful sites are the following:


https://www.social-searcher.com/


https://www.social-searcher.com/google-social-search/


Of course, you can also use google.com itself (including its advanced search option at https://www.google.com/advanced_search).


Once you run searches using these sites, you'll still need to go into each social-media site to manually search for relevant content, but you'll at least know which social media platforms might be of interest for that person. (Please also be aware that people use different usernames or fake names for social media.)


There are other sites that will locate other indispensable information on a possible "target" (i.e., a person of interest). I will discuss these resources in future blog posts.




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