A convicted bank robber had been hoping to get out of jail because the judge in his parole revocation hearing admitted to doing a Google search on a piece of evidence. Unfortunately for him — and fortunately for just about everyone else — an appeals court disagreed.
The man making the appeal had been released from prison in 2008 for a 1995 bank heist, but is now suspected in another bank robbery. During the hearing to revoke his parole, the judge mentioned in court that he had looked at Google to get an idea of how commonly available was a yellow rain hat found in the suspect’s garage.
After his client was sent back to prison for 36 months, the robber’s lawyer argued that the judge in the case had violated federal evidence rules by doing his online research.
However, an appeals court decided that the judge’s Google search was intended to confirm a common sense supposition, and therefore was not a violation.
In their decision, the appeals panel wrote:
Twenty years ago, to confirm an intuition about a variety of rain hats, a trial judge may have needed to travel to a local department store to survey the rain hats on offer… Today, a judge need only take a few moments to confirm his intuition by conducting a basic Internet search.
The appeals court also found that the other evidence presented at the revocation hearing — like an earwitness and the suspect’s car parked near the bank — was sufficient to send him back to jail.