The trials for former Tennessee players A.J. Johnson and Michael Williams, who were both charged with aggravated rape, have been placed on hold Monday.
The reason for the delay is an appellate court ruled in favor of a pretrial appeal to dive into the legality of social media accounts of witnesses in criminal cases, according to Jamie Satterfield of the Knoxville News Sentinel.
A panel of three judges for the Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals granted an interlocutory appeal in hopes of getting legal guidance on the defense’s right to communication via social media and Internet messaging services and how it should be obtained, according to the report.
The attorneys for Johnson and Williams reportedly feel the accuser’s and three witnesses’ messages on Facebook, Snapchat and Yik Yak are key to proving their clients’ innocence, but the social media providers are resisting to hand over any customer postings.
The order from the court came after a judge refused a subpoena for the digital conversations, which came from the two former Vols’ attorneys, according to the report.
A decision is not expected to be made soon, and it will likely shape new laws on defense access to a witnesses’ digital communication when it is not preserved by police.