Boston Bombing Trial Sets Sights on Digital Evidence

Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

Earlier this week, the trial of Boston Bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaev turned its gaze to digital evidence recovered from a multitude of computers and other digital devices. GDF’s founder talks about the important role electronic discovery plays in today’s legal landscape and the kinds of things investigators and attorneys can learn when forensics experts help unravel the secrets which can often be found in the realm of 1s and 0s.

As reported on Thursday, March 19th in the Boston Globe, Day 10 of the Boston Bombing Trial saw attention shift to the digital world, with prosecutors introducing evidence meant to give the jury a glimpse into the mind of a young man accused of being a radical jihadi and self-motivated participant in one of the most horrific acts of terrorism ever carried out on American soil.

Joe Caruso, founder and CEO/CTO of Global Digital Forensics (GDF), a premier national provider of electronic discovery (eDiscovery) and digital forensics solutions headquartered in New York City, and his team of certified computer forensics analysts, have helped attorneys and investigators navigate the world of digital evidence many times, and knows well the hurdles and pitfalls that have to be overcome before potential can be turned to potency when ESI (Electronically Stored Information) is involved.

“With any trial involving digital evidence, especially one with as high a profile as this one, every conceivable aspect of the data found is going to be scrubbed and scrutinized to the limits. From acquisition and identification, through analysis and production, just one misstep by the digital forensics experts along the way can render everything found completely useless. A mishandled chain of custody, missing details in a report, shortcuts, the software and hardware used, not using court accepted and repeatable methods, any or all of it can leave critical evidence tainted and inadmissible,” says Caruso, “and that’s before even getting into the nitty-gritty of the actual evidence.”

What kinds of things can be found “in the data?

“In this case, the prosecution is obviously leaving no digital stone unturned, and they produced some strong evidence they believe to be in their favor, taken from laptops, desktops, thumb drives, smartphones and anything else they could get their hands on. Articles on ‘How to Make a Bomb in the Kitchen of your Mom’, speeches by radicals, English language Al-Qaeda propaganda, it all helps paint the portrait they are trying to, but as any attorney can tell you, electronic discovery is never that easy,” says Caruso. “When Tsarnaev’s defense team gets up to bat next week, their sole objective is to do everything in their power to cast doubt on the evidence laid out by the prosecution, who contend that Tsarnaev was radicalized on his own accord, and not simply as a result of his big brother’s influence. And they do have a leg to stand on, as it seems multiple people used many of the systems and devices which held the evidence. They will not only try to pick apart the way in which the evidence was acquired and analyzed, they will try to put every other possible person in the wheelhouse when the most damning evidence was created, accessed, viewed or modified. But with many things duplicated on multiple systems, devices and storage media, it could be an uphill battle, because there are many clues in many places these days in the world ESI. Location data from a smartphone could put someone in a certain location and exclude another, metadata (data about data) from photographs on some devices can give you time-stamped GPS coordinates showing exactly where and when it was taken, timelines from social media entries, emails and texts can be built, user logon information can be extracted and analyzed to determine usage patterns, intricate timelines can be established, the list goes on and on. It will be a dogfight no doubt, which in the end could come down to the expert witnesses on both sides, because when push comes to shove, the jury is going to be the deciding factor, and the expert that best lays out their findings in an understandable, meaningful and effective way is going to do more than anything to put a jury’s doubts to rest.”

In this digital day and age, Global Digital Forensics is formidable ally when it comes to the identification, acquisition, analysis, production and expert testimony relating to electronic evidence, always using only industry proven and accepted methods and procedures so any evidence found remains pristine and admissible. GDF’s experience and savvy in dealing with some of the most complex ESI situations imaginable and unrivaled expertise during those initial and crucial tone-setting steps, like the meet and confer or discovery conference, will ensure the best chance for litigation success. Because with Global Digital Forensics on the job, those are opportunities to seize an early advantage, not a burden to be endured. And because Global Digital Forensics is highly experienced in virtually any type of digital media, should the trail lead to networks, smartphones, tablets, mainframes, webmail or even social networking sites, GDF can seamlessly transition to help clients find, and make the most out of, virtually any type of electronic evidence involved, wherever it resides.

*Global Digital Forensics is a recognized leader in the fields of computer forensics, eDiscovery, cyber security and emergency incident response. To speak with a digital evidence specialist about your unique situation, or any other computer forensics, eDiscovery or cyber security needs involving Electronically Stored Information (ESI), call 1-800-868-8189, or visit http://www.evestigate.com for more information.