DA upgrades vehicular manslaughter charges to murder after seeing tweets — from the past
You’ve heard that your past can come back to bite you. But can previous tweets cause police to charge you with murder?
That’s exactly what’s happening with a car-on-pedestrian traffic accident last month in Pleasanton, Calif.
On June 9, Cody Hall was driving his Dodge Neon at 83 mph in a 40 mph zone when he struck and hit a middle-aged couple, killing the wife and breaking the husband’s leg. Originally charged with vehicular manslaughter and reckless driving, Hall has now seen his charges upgraded to full-on murder.
Why? Apparently because he boasted on Twitter months before about speeding, “death rides” and retweeted a “drive fast live young” tweet just hours before the fatal accident.
But can tweets prove murder?
Perhaps, according to local police, who told the San Francisco Chronicle that an analysis of Hall’s driving patterns and his Twitter posts about how fast he drove factored into the much more serious charges. Interestingly, Hall’s tweets are now private, which will not prevent law enforcement agencies from requesting them from Twitter via a court order.
There seems to be little question about the events of June 9. The real question is whether general statements made in social media in the past are relevant enough to a specific criminal act in the present to constitute intent. That now seems as if it will be determined in a court of law — and it is yet another reason to be cautious about what you say and do in public on social media.
The investigating officer, Sergeant Robert Lyon of the Pleasanton Police Department, has not yet returned a call requesting comment. And the Alameda District Attorney’s office phone is currently on evening/weekend mode, going straight to voicemail.
One of Hall’s tweets asked his 170 followers “Someone come on a death ride with me !!!” Sadly, the only person who did was an innocent pedestrian.
Hall was taken into custody at a court hearing and is being held without bail.