Monday, July 6, 2009

Growing Presence in the Courtroom: Cellphone Data as Witness

Mikhail Mallayev, who was convicted in March of murdering an orthodontist whose wife wanted him killed during a bitter custody battle, stayed off his cellphone the morning of the shooting in Queens. But afterward, he chatted away, unaware that his phone was acting like a tracking device and would disprove his alibi — that he was not in New York the day of the killing.

Darryl Littlejohn, a nightclub bouncer, made call after call on his cellphone as he drove from his home in Queens to a desolate Brooklyn street to dump the body of Imette St. Guillen, the graduate student he was convicted this month of murdering.

The pivotal role that cellphone records played in these two prominent New York murder trials this year highlights the surge in law enforcement’s use of increasingly sophisticated cellular tracking techniques to keep tabs on suspects before they are arrested and build criminal cases against them by mapping their past movements.


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