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Social Networking Sites as Tools to Investigate Clients, Witnesses & Jurors

"Defense attorneys do their clients a disservice by not at least checking with them to see if they maintain a Web page used for social networking, in addition to the standard methods of digging up dirt." So says defense attorney William R. Gallagher in a recent Wisconsin Law Journal article on using social networking tools to investigate clients, witnesses and jurors.

Whether that "truth" comes in the form of a text message on a cell phone or a posted photo on MySpace, Gallagher said attorneys can take advantage of personal information that is often displayed publicly.

"Shortly after events a lot of times people, who believe they are in their own private world, will write down or say what is the truth," added Gallagher....

[Public Defender Katherine J.] Dorl said that clients or witnesses often appear to be more open with their conversations on a social site, rather than in a courtroom setting.

At the same time, many do not realize their posted pictures or comments are not one-on-one, but more like one-on-one million....

Even if a Facebook profile doesn't offer any valuable case information, it could at least give an attorney some insight into his client's world.

"People are willing to put so much out there, and it's stuff that people my age don't share with the world," said Dorl. "It's amazing, but not necessarily in a good way."