Rittenhouse mistrial motion, again with Apple tech under scrutiny

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Even before the jury reaches a verdict, a Rittenhouse mistrial motion has been filed by the defendant’s attorneys, with Apple tech again at the heart of a dispute regarding video evidence. It follows an earlier argument about the iPad pinch-to-zoom feature.

The latest issue is being widely reported as relating to AirDrop, but in fact Apple’s Mail app is the source of the problem …

At issue is some drone video footage of the shootings. Both prosecution and defense initially had only the low-quality versions of the video, as it was shown on Fox News. The drone operator subsequently provided high-quality footage to the prosecution, which attempted to pass it on to the defense.

What is being widely reported is that the file was passed from prosecutors to defense attorneys via AirDrop, and that this resulted in a lower-quality file being transferred. However, this is not accurate.

The Verge reports that the drone operator met with a detective and transferred the high-quality video footage via AirDrop. The detective, and thus the prosecution, had the full-quality video.

Subsequently, the prosecution emailed this video footage to the defense. However, this was sent via the Apple Mail app, which by default reduces the quality of the video in order to compress it to a smaller size for sending.

The prosecution says it was unaware this compression would occur, with the defense claiming this is grounds for a mistrial. However, the defense has muddied the waters by referencing the original AirDrop transfer, which has no relevance.

Assistant District Attorney James Kraus told the court that “going from an iPhone to an Android, it appears, somehow compressed the file […] we did not know that this would occur. We gave what we fully believed was the full file to Ms. Wisco […] it came in without objection and was an exhibit for four days, displayed for the jury on full screen.” The prosecution says that they did not know the version she received was of lower quality until just a few days ago when Wisco displayed the file she had received on a defense laptop in court.

The iPhone’s Mail app automatically compresses video files sent as an attachment, and the defense attorney describes getting a renamed .mov file in a format that sounds exactly like an Apple Mail-app compressed video from an iPhone user. The defense was ultimately able to retrieve the full-resolution video file after sending an attorney to collect it on a USB stick.

Wisconsin defense attorney Jessa Nicholson Goetz tells The Verge that “it is not normal that video or other electronic evidence is AirDropped to defense counsel in the middle of a trial. That is highly atypical.”

According to Goetz, Wisconsin law says that “any evidence that the state intends to use at trial must be disclosed ‘at a reasonable time before trial,’” and that “a mid-trial AirDrop in no way meets the requirements.”

The complaint should, of course, be that the prosecution sent a lower-quality file via email; mention of AirDrop is a complete red herring.

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