Innovative investigative technology
In a wrongful death case involving an accident at a sporting event we were working for the attorneys representing the decedent’s family. Our firm was hired to investigate the accident, and as part of our investigation we needed to identify and interview witnesses.
Some of the witnesses were easy to locate, as they were the decedent’s friends whom the family knew. To get contact information for these witnesses we used a consultant to gain access to the decedent’s mobile phone (with the family’s expressed permission). However, there were hundreds of people at the sporting event, and identifying these other potential witnesses proved more challenging, as there were no records available regarding who entered the area where the accident occurred.
Whenever anything of significance happens nowadays, people tend to talk about it on Twitter and Facebook, among other social media websites. One of our investigators searched these sites exhaustively to identify witnesses who were at the event, and then we used investigative databases to locate contact information for these people. This enabled a second private investigator at our firm to interview these witnesses, not only to learn what they witnessed, but also to create snowball samples we could use to identify other witnesses. These witnesses were then located using investigative databases too. Link analysis software helped us identify clusters of witnesses who were together at the event.
Because of the outstanding research and meticulous documentation we did in this case—aided by the latest in investigative technology—we were able to make sense of a highly chaotic event.
The posts and tweets related to the accident, however, represented much more than just a means to locate witnesses; they were also evidence which could be useful to impeach witnesses who might choose later to tell a different story about what happened. To prevent this digital information from getting deleted, we used a unique software program to automatically download and create MD5 hash tags for every individual piece of digital evidence we found online related to the accident. This would allow us to testify with certainty regarding the origin and authenticity of the evidence, even if the case did not go to trial until years later when evidence might no longer be online.
Because of the outstanding research and meticulous documentation we did in this case—aided by the latest in investigative technology—we were able to make sense of a highly chaotic event. This proved very helpful to the plaintiff’s counsel reaching a settlement in the case.