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United States v. Johns

United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Southern Division

March 14, 2017

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
MARY JANE KIMBERLY JOHNS, Defendant.

          OPINION AND ORDER REGARDING THE GOVERNMENT'S MOTION TO EXCLUDE ALL E-MAIL AND INSTANT MESSAGE COMMUNICATIONS BETWEEN DEFENDANT AND AV-1 OR OTHERS (DOC. 53)

          GEORGE CARAM STEEH UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         Defendant Mary Jane Kimberly Johns is accused of kidnapping her former girlfriend, Laura Westphal, in May 2000; transporting Westphal across state line and using a firearm in furtherance of this crime. The Government brought charges of kidnapping and the use of a firearm in furtherance of a crime of violence in 2000, but defendant absconded during her pretrial release for 16 years. This case is presently before the Court on the Government's motion to exclude all e-mail and instant message communications between defendant and Westphal or others. (Doc. 53).

         Defendant has listed 269 messages on their exhibit list. The messages may be categorized as follows:

• From Janos17@aol.com (Westphal) to Jeepie97@aol.com (defendant): Exhibits T, U, X;
• From Jeepie97@aol.com (defendant) to Janos17@aol.com (Westphal): Exhibits Y, Z;
• Between Janos17@aol.com and Third Parties: Exhibits V, W, X;
• From Jeepie97@aol.com (defendant) to Jeepie97@aol.com (defendant): Exhibit AA;
• Between Jeepie97@aol.com (defendant) and Third Parties: Exhibits BB, CC, DD, EE.

         These messages date from June 1999 to May 2000. They contain personal, intimate, and sexual details of the couple's relationship. The Government challenges their admissibility on the basis of authenticity, hearsay, relevancy, and Fed.R.Evid. 403.

         The Court heard oral argument on March 13, 2017. As stated on the record, the Court opined that, given the nature and volume of the messages, it seemed unlikely that they would be admissible. The Court acknowledged that the messages may be used for impeachment, but noted that using a message for impeachment purposes does not make the document itself admissible as an exhibit. The Court concluded by stating that it would render an opinion establishing parameters for the admissibility of these messages.

         I. Background

         Defendant and Westphal were in a romantic relationship from the summer of 1999 through April 2000. They lived in different states and used AOL instant messaging and e-mail to communicate. Defendant's AOL account was Jeepie47@aol.com. Westphal's AOL account was Janos17@aol.com.

         Following their breakup, defendant appeared at Westphal's parent's home in May 2000. When Westphal returned to the home, the women departed on a drive to Iowa. The Government alleges that defendant held Westphal at gunpoint, forcing her to drive, and holding her hostage for eight days. During this time, defendant allegedly threatened to kill Westphal and would not let Westphal out of her sight. Defendant denies the kidnapping; asserting that Westphal left her home and traveled with defendant to avoid having her family discover her same-sex relationship and to ensure that defendant did not commit suicide.

         II. Analysis

         A. ...


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