Memo to criminals: You might want to think twice about what you post to Facebook.
That’s one of the lessons from an appeals-court ruling Wednesday in a carjacking case in which police discovered a Facebook video that showed a defendant driving the victim’s car and wearing the victim’s stolen watch. The video also showed a codefendant in the passenger’s seat, counting the victim’s money.
The ruling by a panel of the 4th District Court of Appeal, which upheld grand-theft convictions of defendant Arkheem J. Lamb, detailed a series of legal issues in the case — including issues that could come up in other cases amid ubiquitous social-media posting. As an example, the ruling dealt with questions about authentication needed before Facebook video can be used in court.
But the ruling also made clear Lamb might have never been convicted in the Palm Beach County case if he wasn’t spotted on Facebook.
“But for the defendant’s participation in the Facebook video showing off the bounty from that night’s criminal escapade, the state may not have had sufficient evidence to convict the defendant as a participant in these crimes,” said the 16-page ruling, written by Chief Judge Jonathan Gerber and joined by judges Robert Gross and Jeffrey Kuntz. “However, the Facebook video existed, and made the state’s case.”
Lamb was convicted of grand theft of a vehicle and grand theft in the 2016 case and was sentenced to three years of probation, according to information on the Florida Department of Corrections website. He also was accused of taking part in another carjacking incident but was acquitted.
The incidents occurred a few hours — and about 30 miles — apart, according to the appeals-court ruling. The incident that led to Lamb’s conviction involved a victim who was sitting in his car near a hotel in Jupiter. After a gun was put to the man’s head, two men took his car, phone, watch, wallet and cash, which included Cuban money.
The next day, as police investigated the two carjackings, the victim in the first incident identified two of Lamb’s codefendants — but not Lamb. Ultimately, defendants obtained a search warrant for one of the codefendants’ phones and found a Facebook video that showed cars stolen in both carjacking incidents.
When the case went to trial, the victim in the first carjacking testified that the video showed Lamb driving the victim’s car and wearing the victim’s watch. He also testified that one of the codefendants could be seen counting the Cuban money. A detective testified that the Facebook video had been posted about 21 minutes after the second carjacking.
A jury later convicted Lamb, whose attorneys raised a series of issues in the appeal. Among other things, according to Wednesday’s ruling, the attorneys contended that the Facebook video was not properly authenticated and should not have been admitted into evidence because the detective and a police digital forensic examiner “did not record the video and were not shown in the recording of the video.”
But the appeals court rejected the arguments and upheld the convictions.
“The first victim testified that the defendant could be seen on the Facebook video driving the first victim’s car while wearing the first victim’s watch while a codefendant counted the first victim’s Cuban money,” the ruling said. “The Jupiter police detective also testified that the defendant could be seen on the Facebook video driving the first victim’s car while stating ‘we live’ on the video. Based on this evidence, we conclude the state made a prima facie showing of the video’s authenticity for the purpose of admission into evidence, thus allowing the jury to make the ultimate determination of the weight to be given to the video’s contents.”