Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Federal district court rules that images acquired from Internet cache are fair game in child pornography possession case

In yet another child pornography possession case, an Oregon federal district court made some interesting motion decisions.

In U.S. v. Storm, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 184056 (D. Oregon 2012), the court held that the evidence acquired from an electronic device’s unallocated space and Internet search files (cache files) can be introduced as long as it is not unfairly prejudicial.  

The court also granted and denied in part the defendant’s motion to suppress a vast majority of the pornographic images that the government proposed to publish to the jury. 
The defendant, Logan Storm, was charged with one count of knowingly possessing images of child pornography.

In filing his motion to exclude, the defendant asserted that there is no evidence that he knew the pornographic files were present in the unallocated space of his computer.

The government stated that it did not intend to secure a conviction solely on the files found in the unallocated space. They argued that the files recovered from the unallocated spaces such as cache files are relevant in conjunction with other files and images found in allocated spaces of the defendant’s various devices as it helps provide context to establish one or more disputed elements of the crime charged.

It is quite interesting that the court accepted this argument. The court seems to imply that the relevance of evidence taken from unallocated spaces and Internet caches hinges on it being combined with other relevant evidence. This does not speak to the relevance of such evidence in and of itself. 

In regards to the specific images, the court decided that many of them were cumulative and potentially unfairly prejudicial. However, the court rejected the defendant’s arguments that exposing the jury to the images had the potential of victimizing the child victims. 

The court also rejected the defendant’s suggestions that certain parts of the images needed to be redacted to reduce the prejudicial nature of the images citing lack of precedent.

After an in camera review of the images, the court decided that it would allow no more than 38 slides out of 97 slides of alleged child pornography to be shown to the jury. According to the court, most of the images were cumulative and present a substantial risk of unfair prejudice.  


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