While eDiscovery tools have evolved in such a way that allows investigators, prosecutors and others in the legal field to search through the entirety of digitally stored files of opponents, it still isn’t that simple. Though the technology is new and exciting, due diligence is crucial from the outset of a discovery proceeding, as improper use of the tools and potentially illegal searches of opponents’ information can lead to serious repercussions.
Another problem in Kennebunk
In one of the biggest news stories to hit the state of Maine in 2012, a Kennebunk Zumba class instructor was accused of running a massive prostitution ring. In the months following the original allegations, there has been a variety of motions from the defense to dismiss pieces of evidence due to improper use of eDiscovery tools and shoddy protocols by the prosecution.
Seacoast Online recently reported that defendant Mark Strong’s attorney Dan Lilley alleges that he was the target of retaliation by the Kennebunk Police. The defendant had run an investigation on the police department to try and find dirt that his then-lover, Alex Wright, who faces more than 100 charges related to prostitution, could use against the enforcement agency to try and get the case thrown out.
The source explained that the Main State Police Major Crimes Unit seized a black Toshiba hard drive, which stored the results of Strong’s investigation, from his office last July. All computer evidence was transferred to a state police barracks, and then a crime lab. In what should be a lesson for any party involved in an electronic litigation proceeding, Lilley brought up that proper chain of custody processes might have been violated, pointing out that a serial number for the hard drive in question was missing on an inventory sheet.
Further, Seacoast Online explained that while all seized hard drives and computers were supposed to go from the state police barracks to the crime lab, one ended up in Kennebunk because of what Lilley alleged to be an either mistaken of intentional placement in the trunk of officer Audra Presby’s car.
The news provider stated that this empowered Lilley with the ability to protest the state’s move to enter the drive into evidence, as the missing serial number and placement of one hard drive in the trunk of an officer’s car combined to raise questions about the chain of custody.
Additionally, this was not the first time in this trial that similar motions to dismiss evidence because of mishandling or mismanagement of digital files and hardware on behalf of the prosecution.
Due diligence a must
In a high-profile case like that of the Kennebunk Zumba prostitution ring, it becomes clear that mishandling the eDiscovery components of the trial can lead to serious repercussions. While tools are available to help manage investigations, all parties involved need to ensure due diligence when approaching evidence, and ensure that all protocols are met to meet proper chain of custody guidelines.
Simple missteps can lead to serious repercussions, which also illustrates the importance of knowing when to call in the professionals to help manage the eDiscovery process.