1st District Appellate Court Reverses Conviction Based on Hearsay Use of Cell Phone Historical Site Analysis

In this case, the defendant was accused of participating in an armed robbery with a firearm, went to trial, and was found guilty by a jury. The appellate court focused on two specific issues in reversing and remanding this case for a new trial.

The first was the use of historical cell phone site analysis. Cell phones were seized from the defendant and an alleged co-offender at the time of their arrest. No usable cell phone data was recoverable from the defendant’s phone, but in response to a search warrant, T-Mobile gave records regarding cell phone sites for that co-offender’s phone. The detective then took the data which was in the form of coordinates, plugged them into Google Earth to acquire map locations, and then testified to these locations at the defendant’s jury over hearsay and confrontation clause objections.

The appellate court found this testimony to be testimonial hearsay, subject to no exceptions. The appellate court rejected the State’s argument that they were T-mobile business records as no representative from T-mobile laid the foundation for these records to make this argument. The court also rejected the State’s argument that the records were self-authenticating.

The second issue was restricting the use of a transcript during defense closing arguments. In this instance, defense counsel wrote his notes for his closing argument on his copy of the trial transcript and was using the transcript to make his argument as well as highlight discrepancies in prior testimony of witnesses. During argument, the trial court sustained a sua sponte objection and barred any use of the transcript even though defense counsel indicated his closing argument notes were on the transcript.

The appellate court found this to be error as the trial court improperly hindered defense counsel from making the most effective closing argument by depriving him of his notes, and also found a categorical ban from using any transcript during argument to be error.

The case is People v. Juan Ramos, 1-15-1888.


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