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Memphis suspects' camera phone video results in criminal charges

When George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four was published, it may have caused some of its readers to fear omnipresent government surveillance. Today, thanks to the popularity of camera phones and social networking services like Facebook, it appears some people are unknowingly encouraging such surveillance. Recently, the Multi-Agency Gang Unit in Memphis used a cellphone video to arrest two teenagers for allegedly robbing and beating a young man. They are presumed innocent until proven guilty, and are entitled to a criminal defense attorney.

Prosecutors believe that the two teenagers, along with two other alleged gang members, appear in a video captured with a camera phone that shows four teenagers pulling off the victim's clothes and leaving him face down and motionless. According to law enforcement, the teenagers in the video also repeatedly stomped on the victim's head, kicked him in the ribs and back and then stole the victim's gold chain.

According to a spokesman for the gang unit, a younger sibling of one of the alleged suspects recognized him after the video was posted to Facebook. The spokesman also said that some of the members of the gang unit also recognized a couple of the alleged gang members in the video. The 18-year-old and 14-year-old were arrested and charged with aggravated assault and aggravated robbery.

Tennessee law defines aggravated robbery as robbery when using a deadly weapon, or something that might be characterized as a weapon. When a person faces assault charges, there can be long-term consequences. A good defense attorney will scrutinize police procedures, collect and analyze evidence, interview witnesses and generally build a case that supports the accused person's version of events. In court, it is the state that has the burden of proof.

While it is unknown if the Facebook video will satisfy the state's burden of proof, the alleged suspects involved are presumed innocent until proven guilty. The presumption of innocence is a cornerstone of the American legal system. It is also important to remember that the alleged suspects have a right to a criminal defense attorney. The Fifth and Sixth Amendments to the United States Constitution provide this right to them.

Source: Commercial Appeal, "Memphis gang members post video on Facebook showing their felony crime," Beth Warren, Aug. 20, 2012

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