Lawyers For Guy Charged In Death Of 4 Year Old, Demanding IDs Of 300 Newspaper Commenters

from the anonymity? dept

There have been a lot of stories lately about those who feel wronged demanding the identify of anonymous commenters. The latest such story, sent in by Kent Newsome involves a guy, Lucas Coe, who was charged in the death of his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter. The local news organizations in Houston wrote about the case, and the stories generated plenty of comments. So, Coe’s attorneys are demanding the identifying information on approximately 300 commenters. They’re defending the request by saying that “the specificity of some comments that made it appear they came from people with personal knowledge of the case.” Really? All 300 said stuff so specific that it appeared they had personal knowledge of the case? Or… is it just that his lawyers don’t like what people are saying? Trying to find out the identities of anonymous speakers seems like a clear attempt to stifle free speech through intimidation. Luckily, the news organizations are defending their commenters’ right to be anonymous. Hopefully, the courts agree.

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Comments on “Lawyers For Guy Charged In Death Of 4 Year Old, Demanding IDs Of 300 Newspaper Commenters”

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Anshar (profile) says:

Just Curious

I’m not quite clear about what stage this prosocution is at and therefore if this reason applies in this case but this story did make me wonder one thing: Could a case be made for identifying commenters during jury selection to ensure none of them are selected? I’m sure the question could come up during the selection process, but nothing would prevent the person from lying about it. Anyhow, just a thought.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Just Curious

No. Much too early in the game to worry about juror bias. Given the article mentions some anonymous comments appear to suggest some intimate familiarity with case details (or so the defense attorney wants others to believe), it is clear this is likely a fishing expedition to try and find someone the defense attorney can point to and loudly proclaim “See, there is another possible suspect who could have done this terrible deed.” This is all about trying to identify other candidates for being a suspect in order to later try and create the impression of reasonable doubt.

Sheinen says:

It hadn’t occurred to me that the retarded, and clearly work-starved lawyer would probably be reading every comment posted regarding himself or this case!

This is Directed entirely at you Mr Lawyer:

You are a Twat, You’re client is Satan’s bum-buddy and you spend too much time on the internet. Go read a book, preferably one about Freedom of Speach and Anonymity Law.

Anonymous1 says:

Lucas Coe’s lawyer sounds like a really worthless excuse for a human being. Are we sure that he isn’t really a cyborg from the future, sent back in time to kill off all decent human beings? The commenter’s identities need to be protected. As for Lucas Coe-justice WILL be served by the courts, so have fun with your last few moments of freedom.

Alex Hagen says:

Monster publicity

Good work lawyer, now even more people will know about this monster:

“In the days leading to her death, 4-year-old Emma Thompson suffered 80 contusions, a fractured skull, a brain hemorrhage and a vaginal tear.

About 12 to 24 hours before she died, the Spring girl was hit in the abdomen by an “unknown object,” causing blunt force trauma that killed her, according to court records filed by investigators…”

Get Real says:

Free Speech

I didn’t know ANONYMOUS free speech was a protected right? The author makes this out as a free speach issue, and it’s clearly not. You are allowed to make statements, but anonymous slander is not a protected right. While the press provided facts in this case make certain things seem factual, the reality is the guy is innocent until convicted.
I’d much rather protect the guy’s rights to a fair trial than to protect those who wish to claim the right to anonymously “slander”.

Mike Masnick (profile) says:

Re: Free Speech

I didn’t know ANONYMOUS free speech was a protected right?

“Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical, minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights, and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society.” — US Supreme Court

You are allowed to make statements, but anonymous slander is not a protected right

No one is claiming slander here (besides, slander is spoken, libel is written).

NullOp says:

No secrets

I suspect the lawyers are just worried about getting a fair trial for their client. If 300 people commented on the story you can bet a Hell-of-a-lot more heard about it and have already formed an opinion. So, if I was this guys lawyer I would do the same thing to see if I could get the case thrown out later, in appeal, when he is convicted. Remember, there is not a thing a lawyer won’t do in an effort to win your case. If you have a good lawyer, that is. It’s not about justice or “what’s right” it about the law and what a lawyer can get a judge and jury to believe.

Anonymous1 says:

I didn’t know typing like THIS made my point any more clear.
To the above poster: You’re a pompous, arrogant, a$$. There isn’t evidence of libel in any of the 300 users comments, at least none that was highlighted here by Mike. Even if there was it certainly doesn’t justify a subpoena of all the users. Even if all 300 users posts were libelous in fact, no one here or anywhere connected to this story, argued that anonymous libel should be protected. Go look up basic logic and debate, and look up the term “straw man”. You’re intentionally misrepresenting the argument, either because you’re trolling, have a vested interest in doing so, or are just an idiot, and I’m not sure which yet. Why don’t you “Get Real”, by getting your $hit straight, and getting a real argument, against something you can factually argue about. Until then…I think you saw this’s time to stuff it. Go look that up if you don’t know what it means by the way. A trial is for the courts. As is the concept of innocent until guilty.The public at large. has, can, and will continue to pre-judge all the damn well wish.

Anonymous1 says:

Should anonymous commenters be identified for the purpose of keeping them off of a jury?

That could be one of the questions put on a jury form. It could be phrased as follows: “Have you responded/commented in any form (including, but not limited too: website, weblog aka “blog”, forum) of public electronic communication regarding this case, and, or the participants?” If it later was discovered otherwise, the same potential re/mistrial and contempt of court issues/charges could then be handled. That’s OK.
That doesn’t justify the subpoena of the 300 commenters in this case however, or evidence “fishing expeditions” in general, IMHO.

Sean (user link) says:

Honestly Mike, you're slipping.

“They’re defending the request by saying that “the specificity of some comments that made it appear they came from people with personal knowledge of the case.” Really? All 300 said stuff so specific that it appeared they had personal knowledge of the case? Or…”

No Mike, the lawyer himself says, in between the quotation marks YOU wrote on YOUR blog that _SOME_ of those that left comments knew. Then you, 16 words later, have the gall to say “all”. Dude, what the fuck is wrong with you? Why are you putting words into his mouth?

Sometimes Mike you’re no better than those you criticize.

Anonymous1 says:

@Sean: The question should be WTF is wrong with you?! Ok “dude” ?

Re-read the quote “dude”:

They’re defending the request by saying that “the specificity of some comments that made it appear they came from people with personal knowledge of the case.” Really? All 300 said stuff so specific that it appeared they had personal knowledge of the case?

So Mike is clearly saying that while they’re (this defendent’s legal team/lawyer) only claiming some comments have relavence, or show “specific knowledge”, they asking for a subpoena on all of the comments. If they weren’t asking for all 300 people’s info, Mike clearly wouldn’t be asking this rhetorical question. Then again, you come across as the same person as “Get Real” with your selective CAPITALIZATION and all. Even if you’re not, you appear about as dense as an oak tree, IMHO, to even suggest that any of that matters. The actions of the lawyer should be roundly criticized regardless of your editorial quibble. Sorry “Sean” to disappoint with facts.

Anonymous1 says:

From the source article:
Coe attorney seeks IDs behind online comments

“Steinmann said he’s sent subpoenas to media including The Houston Chronicle, the Conroe Courier, KHOU (Channel 11) and KTRK (Channel 13).

Those who comment generally use pseudonyms, and the lawyer has asked for identifying information on about 300 of them.”

So “Sean” it looks like the lawyer has some explaining to do, not Mike. If only some comments are relavent, again, why the subpoena on 300 individuals? A duh..duh..stutter…duh… Crawl back in your hole now please, and take a book on reading comprehension with you.

Carla says:

Puzzling comments

This fellow has been charged but not let tried in court, much less convicted of any crime. For the sake of argument, what if this guy is innocent and the real perpetrator of this horrible crime continues to go unpunished because the court of popular opinion has found their fall guy. Whatever happened to “innocent until proven guilty?” With this new approach to justice in America, court proceedings appear to be completely unnecessary and the idea that a person charged with an offense has a right to legal representation seems increasingly quaint. Well, go with the flow, I guess. Lynch mobs sound like great excitement – a bonding experience for everyone involved (except the lynchee, of course, but who cares about that?)

Anne Onymous says:

When the truth comes out about Lucas Coe, all your feelings will change and sane/rational people will join the lynch mobs. This sicko needs to be locked up forever. So, when the lawyer interviews 300 people and finds out that his client is Texas’ worst child predator, will he… drop the case or find every loop hole to get his client out. Does anyone remember the court case in “The Devils Advocate”? The only difference is that little Emma didn’t get a chance to testify.

Anonymous Coward says:

The link is broken. This seems to be the correct link:

The incorrect link does not seem to be a plausible misspelling of the correct link, so this is rather weird.

That site is badly designed, though. For example, a search of it for “Lucas Coe” finds other coverage, but none of the articles has any links, even to one another.

And then, of course, there’s this:

“Copyright notice: All materials in this archive are copyrighted by Houston Chronicle Publishing Company Division, Hearst Newspapers Partnership, L.P., or its news and feature syndicates and wire services. No materials may be directly or indirectly published, posted to Internet and intranet distribution channels, broadcast, rewritten for broadcast or publication or redistributed in any medium. Neither these materials nor any portion thereof may be stored in a computer except for personal and non-commercial use.”

Er, fair use, anyone?

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