Ghomeshi email evidence shows how 'digital debris' increasingly used in trials

VANCOUVER -- The unearthing of 13-year-old emails in an attempt to discredit a woman accusing Jian Ghomeshi of sexual assault underscores the growing importance of "digital debris" in criminal and civil trials, experts say.

See Full Article

Lawyers and technology experts say the Internet has allowed for extensive records to be kept of one's movements and comments unlike anything in the past, but most people still don't consider the potential permanence of their words when firing off a message.

The amount of electronic data, records and documents introduced in trials can be "overwhelming," said David Fraser, an Internet and privacy lawyer with McInnes Cooper.

"There's also a tendency for people to put in email messages things that would be relatively casual that they earlier would have picked up the phone to communicate," he said.

"Picking up the phone wouldn't have created a record, but as soon as (the recipient has) an email message and they're not inclined to delete it, all of a sudden you have a record."

Defence lawyer Marie Henein has grilled two female complainants on their correspondence with Ghomeshi after the alleged assaults. A third has yet to testify.

On Friday, Henein produced a racy email sent by Lucy DeCoutere mere hours after she alleges Ghomeshi choked and slapped her in 2003, as well as a handwritten letter sent a few days later in which DeCoutere wrote "I love your hands."

The "Trailer Park Boys" actress testified she didn't remember sending the email. She said firmly that the note -- as well as other warm and even romantic dispatches she sent to Ghomeshi -- didn't mean the alleged assault didn't take place.

Ghomeshi has pleaded not guilty to all charges against him. In a 2014 Facebook post he acknowledged engaging in rough sex but said it was consensual.

While 13 years is a bit further back than most people's saved correspondence stretches, Fraser said it's increasingly common to hang on to emails forever, given that web-based clients like Gmail, Yahoo Mail and Hotmail have practically unlimited storage space.

"It's a whole lot easier to keep it than it is to make the effort to decide what to delete," he said.

Only a few lines of Ghomeshi's replies have been read out by the defence and the Crown has not indicated that it has digital dirt on the former CBC Radio host. It may not be too late for the Crown to seek a search warrant for Ghomeshi's emails, if it hasn't already, Fraser said.

He said it's common sense in 2016 for lawyers to ask themselves if there's a likelihood that there's relevant electronic evidence -- be it emails, text messages, social media posts, Yelp reviews or Foursquare check-ins.

"In our day-to-day lives we leave so much digital debris that some of that could be relevant in a criminal case or a civil trial."

An entire industry called e-discovery or digital forensics has sprung up to assist lawyers in cases where deeper online digging is needed.

Richard Morochove runs a company called Morochove & Associates that does computer forensics investigation. He said emails are the most common digital documents that he's asked to search for or scrutinize.

"It's usually quite simple. Usually, the email is saved by somebody somewhere," he said. "Sometimes, even when someone thinks they've deleted an email from their computer, it's not deleted.

"We have various forensic tools we can use to go in and un-delete emails, to be able to look at things that appear to be gone but are actually still there."

Ronald Cenfetelli, chair in management information systems at the University of British Columbia's Sauder School of Business, said many corporations keep back-ups of email data for years.

Many email clients require users to manually delete items from a "Trash" folder, and of course, there's nothing to stop a recipient from forwarding an email to five other people, he said.

"You can create a million perfect copies of an email that would be pretty cumbersome to do with a piece of paper," he said. "With emails, there can be ghosts or shadows that sort of reverberate out there."



Advertisements

Latest Canada & World News

  • When Trudeau sought to free 2 Canadians, 'Beijing had no time' for him. Will Trump?

    World News CBC News
    With Justin Trudeau's calls for the release of two detained Canadians in China going unheeded by one superpower, the Canadian prime minister is now seeking help from another. Whether the economic giant to Canada's south is willing to come to its neighbour's aid may depend on a clash of Washington's interests amid its own multi-pronged conflict with Beijing. Source
  • 'A good connection': How a pub landlord wound up raising ravens hatched at the Tower of London

    World News CBC News
    In the sprawling backyard of a pub northeast of London, England, three raven chicks have taken up residence near the picnic tables and vegetable gardens. Hatched at the Tower of London this spring, the chicks were moved to their new quarters in a small village in the county of Suffolk to live with Mike Keen, a pub landlord who's gained notoriety as the "Raven Whisperer. Source
  • Acosta opens up about war on the media, covering White House in new book

    World News CTV News
    CNN’s White House correspondent Jim Acosta has been called “the enemy of the people,” had his press pass briefly stripped away and has become an unwilling foil to U.S. President Donald Trump. “(It) started off as an act where he would taunt and troll us and call us ‘fake news,’ and even the ‘enemy of the people’ and has really spiraled out of his control,” Acosta told CTV News Washington Bureau correspondent Richard Madan. Source
  • Police search for witnesses after altercation at Pride event in Hamilton, Ont.

    Canada News CTV News
    Hamilton police are asking witnesses to come forward after an altercation at a Pride event may have left multiple people injured. Police say they responded to a large disturbance at Gage Park on Saturday afternoon that resulted in a physical confrontation. Source
  • Peru starts demanding passports, visas from Venezuelans

    World News CBC News
    Dozens of riot police stood guard at Peru's northern border on Saturday, hours after new entry measures requiring Venezuelan migrants to hold a passport and humanitarian visa took effect. More than 9,000 Venezuelans entered the country with just their national ID cards on Friday, the highest number ever recorded by Peruvian immigration authorities. Source
  • Manitoba Second World War veteran turns 100, receives France's highest honour

    Canada News CTV News
    On his 100th birthday, a veteran from Manitoba became the latest Canadian awarded France’s Legion of Honour in recognition of his role in liberating the country during the Second World War. Ian Wilson told CTV Winnipeg that it felt “wonderful” to receive the country’s top honour, which is given out to different Canadian veterans each year. Source
  • Several injured in altercation between attendees, demonstrators at Hamilton Pride festival

    Canada News CBC News
    Hamilton police are investigating a physical confrontation between two opposing groups at the Hamilton Pride festival at Gage Park on Saturday. Jackie Penman, a Hamilton police spokesperson, said she "can't say for sure" what sparked the altercation, but that a group of protesters clashed with a group attending the festival. Source
  • Two dead, including one who police believe was a child, in Alberta house fire

    Canada News CTV News
    PLAMONDON, Alta. -- Two people, including one who police believe was a child, have been found dead inside a burnt-out home in northern Alberta. RCMP say members from their detachment in Lac La Biche were called to the fire in Plamondon, a hamlet about 200 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, early Saturday. Source
  • Tsunami not expected after earthquake near New Zealand

    World News CTV News
    There is little threat of a tsunami hitting New Zealand after an earthquake with an estimated magnitude of 7.0 struck the remote Kermadec Islands. The earthquake occurred at 10:55 a.m. New Zealand time. New Zealand’s Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency initially issued the beach and marine tsunami warning but said minutes later that the earthquake is "unlikely to have caused a tsunami that will pose a threat to NZ. Source
  • Ottawa high school yearbooks to be reprinted after prank

    Canada News CTV News
    Some Ottawa high school students won’t receive their yearbooks on time after pranksters replaced some students’ photos, quotes and nicknames with fake, crude ones. Staff at John McCrae Secondary School are still deciding how to redact or correct approximately 420 books after the prank was discovered. Source