This Valentine's Day there will no doubt be multitudes of loving emoticons sent through cyberspace--but little did you know that they could turn state's evidence! The trial of Ross W. Ulbricht, a man charged with running Silk Road, a black-market website where vendors sold illicit goods, is calling for the jury to consider emoji when reviewing evidence.
Building a case has become complicated in the digital age, where there are no finger prints or voice recordings, and even more complicated when the subject of the case is a business built on anonymity, using pseudonyms for communications and bitcoins for payment. Julia L. Gatto, the lawyer for Gilberto Valle, a New York police officer accused in a plot to kidnap, torture, kill, and eat women, said “The question of identity in the virtual world is a complicated one. In a typical case with an audio recording, somebody says, ‘I know that voice.’ Here, the best you can do is say: ‘I know that style. I know he doesn’t capitalize his i’s or always uses a frowny emoticon.’"
For this reason, Mr. Ulbricht's attorney asked that email and other Internet communications be shown to the jury rather than read aloud, because "Chats are designed to be absorbed through reading, not through hearing." Prosecutors disagreed, but eventually the judge on the case instructed the jury to take note of such symbols in messages.
Source: The New York Times