Blogs as trial evidence

You need to be careful when writing those tell-all stories on your blog…the police may be reading.

Blake [Ranking] was sitting in the back seat as he and then-17-year-old friends Jason Coker and Nicole Robinette left a party when he pulled the steering wheel as a prank, causing the car to somersault off the road.

His blood alcohol content after the crash measured 0.185, more than double the legal limit.

Robinette, who was driving and had no traces of drugs or alcohol in her system, was seriously injured. Coker lay in a coma at Orlando Regional Medical Center until he died Jan. 11.

“It was me who caused it. I turned the wheel. I turned the wheel that sent us off the road, into the concrete drain …” Ranking wrote in the blog. “How can I be fine when everyone else is so messed up?”

Ranking later retracted his words, deleting them from the blog and penning an explanation.

“People say I ‘contradict’ myself since I ‘already admitting pulling the wheel.’ I didn’t ‘ADMIT’ anything. I went on a guilt trip, and I posted the story that I WAS TOLD . . . Nicole told me I pulled the wheel, I believed her,” he wrote.

Still, the confession forced him to lead guilty Monday to manslaughter charges. He could have gotten 15 years in prison, but defense lawyer John Spivey and Assistant State Attorney Julie Greenberg recommended five years in prison, 10 years of probation and a permanent license suspension.

(Losing control of your inhibitions is dangerous. If you’re going to get drunk/stoned/whatever, do it in the relative safety of your own home.)

I think a lot about the fact that blogs are public, and that you never know who is reading. This issue seems to come up a lot. I think a lot of younger writers don’t consider the impact of what they write.

For example, you’ll see a lot of younger people writing long diatribes about why they’re mad at their friends…and they’ll mention the friend by name or nickname, as if the blog’s contents were somehow inaccessible to that person, or perhaps in an attempt to make the person see how angry the writer is. These standard and completely understandable teenage displays of anger and frustration can be very dangerous in a blog setting. With who knows who out there reading, the things you say could have a permanent impact on your or someone else’s life.

And what happens when someone gets mad at someone else, and decides to lie about them on a blog in order to get them into trouble? I can’t believe it hasn’t already happened, somewhere.

Hopefully, blogs, like other Internet communications, will ride the crest of newness and become more stable, and “unwritten rules” will become widely accepted, just like they have for forums and chat rooms. Until then, though, I expect to see a lot more stories like this one…