The California Supreme Court’s headquarters in San Francisco at the Earl Warren Building and Courthouse. Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

The California Supreme Court ruled this week that a San Diego court must re-examine its decision to allow the defendant in an attempted murder case to subpoena Facebook to obtain private social media posts and messages.

The ruling issued Thursday laid out a series of factors for the trial court to consider when weighing whether to allow the defendant to gain access to his alleged victim’s restricted posts and private messages.

The ruling stems from the criminal case of Lance Touchstone, a Northern California man who faces charges for allegedly shooting his sister’s boyfriend in Ocean Beach in 2016.

Touchstone alleged the posts and messages would help him in his defense. The defendant said they would show his accuser was a violent person, in an attempt to bolster a self-defense claim.

A San Diego Superior Court judge ruled in Touchstone’s favor and ordered Facebook to release the information. The decision led to subsequent appeals.

In her opinion, Chief Justice Tani G. Cantil-Sakauye, wrote that the trial court should consider a list of seven factors when deciding whether good cause has been shown to grant the subpoena.

These “Alhambra factors” include whether the defendant has shown a “plausible justification” for acquiring the information and whether acquiring the material violates a third party’s confidentiality or privacy rights.

The state Supreme Court declined to make its own determination on the subpoena’s viability.

Touchstone’s attempted murder trial in San Diego remains pending. Courts remain closed to the public and jury trials have been delayed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

– City News Service

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