July 11, 2013
Monica Lara, OVN correspondent
Superior Court Judge James Cloninger ruled this week that information appearing on Alex Medina’s MySpace account would be allowed as evidence in the now-18-year-old’s July 29 murder trial.
Medina is accused of stabbing 16-year-old Seth Scarminach to death in April 2009 at a party in Meiners Oaks.
Following Medina’s arrest, investigators accessed his page twice in 2009 — once through Medina’s account and another time by viewing his profile through one of his “friend’s” accounts.
The prosecution will be allowed to introduce into evidence a 3-minute video capture of Medina’s home page, photos and their comments. One of those photos was used to determine if a witness — who was allegedly at the party where the stabbing took place — recognized Medina.
The defense team of Scott Wippert and Robyn Bramson challenged the legality of the information gathering, claiming investigators did not have clear consent to gain access — allegedly violating Medina’s Fourth Amendment rights. They sought to have the 2009 MySpace evidence suppressed. “There is no reason under the law to excuse a warrantless search,” Wippert said during closing arguments of Monday evidentiary hearing.
In 2011, investigators undertook a search and seizure by freezing Medina’s account and using a warrant. The information obtained differed between the two time periods his profile was accessed.
Cloninger ultimately denied the defense’s effort to suppress the 2009 MySpace evidence, ruling that the process was lawful because Medina was on probation at the time of the crime. Therefore, the observations were within the scope of the juvenile search terms and the information gathering was not an actual search and seizure.
“I think it was an appropriate ruling,” said deputy district attorney Thomas Dunlevy, who is prosecuting the case.
“We respectfully disagree with the court’s ruling,” Bramson said. “We believe it was a search.”
Medina has been in custody since his arrest in 2009. He was charged with first-degree murder and three enhancement felonies relating to gang activity, which could add to his sentence if convicted. Even though he was arrested at the age of 14, he will be tried as an adult.
Medina has pleaded not guilty.