Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio
the 399th Judicial District Court, Bexar County, Texas Trial
Court No. 2014CR5283 Honorable Ray Olivarri, Judge Presiding
Sitting: Karen Angelini, Justice Luz Elena D. Chapa, Justice
Irene Rios, Justice
John Murray was convicted by a jury of compelling
prostitution. To support this conviction, the State
introduced into evidence pictures, private messages, and
other electronic data from a Facebook account assigned to
Murray. On appeal, Murray contends: (1) the affidavit
supporting the search warrant did not establish probable
cause to search Murray's Facebook account because it did
not demonstrate the reliability of the informant or source of
information; and (2) the evidence the trial court admitted
from the Facebook account was not properly authenticated. We
affirm the trial court's judgment of conviction.
case arose based upon an outcry statement made by C.J., a
13-year-old girl, in which C.J. alleged she met Allen John
Murray after she ran away from home. C.J. claimed Murray took
pictures of her and posted them on his Facebook page to
advertise her for sex. C.J. stated that at least three men
came to Murray's house, gave money to Murray and engaged
in sexual intercourse with her. After two days, C.J. left
Murray's house and returned to her grandmother's
home; however, she then stole her grandmother's car and
ran away again. C.J. was eventually arrested and taken to the
Bexar County Juvenile Detention Center where she made the
outcry statement to a juvenile detention officer. A state
trooper from the Department of Public Safety (DPS), conducted
an investigation and prepared an investigative report of his
findings. The report stated the officer's observation of
a Facebook page assigned to Murray, as it appeared to the
general public, confirmed the presence of sexually
provocative pictures of C.J., and these pictures were
attached to the report.
Jonathan Brown, a Texas Peace Officer assigned as an
investigator with the Bexar County District Attorney's
Office, executed an affidavit to obtain a search warrant of
Murray's Facebook account, profile, and private messages
based upon the information provided by C.J. to law
enforcement and the DPS officer's investigative report.
The magistrate issued a search warrant.
result of this investigation, the State charged Murray in a
four-count indictment with trafficking of a child and
compelling prostitution. During trial, the prosecution
introduced evidence of the pictures of C.J. that appeared on
the Facebook page assigned to Murray, as well as private
messages received and written pertaining to C.J. through the
Facebook account. A jury acquitted Murray of three counts and
returned a guilty verdict on one count of compelling
prostitution. Murray now appeals.
One: Probable Cause for a Search Warrant
first issue, Murray argues the trial court abused its
discretion by denying his motion to suppress evidence
obtained as a result of the search warrant. Murray contends
the affidavit supporting the search warrant did not contain
sufficient facts to establish probable cause to search
Murray's Facebook account. Specifically, Murray asserts
Officer Brown attested to information provided by C.J.
through other law enforcement officers, but failed to verify
the information or otherwise establish C.J.'s
reliability. Therefore, the affidavit is based solely upon
hearsay and cannot establish probable cause to issue a search
warrant of Murray's Facebook account.
search warrant must be supported by an affidavit which sets
forth substantial facts establishing probable cause for its
issuance. See Davis v. State, 27 S.W.3d 664, 667
(Tex. App.- Waco 2000, pet. ref'd); Mayfield v.
State, 800 S.W.2d 932, 934 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 1990,
no pet.). Probable cause to support the issuance of a search
warrant exists when the totality of the circumstances
presented to the magistrate in the affidavit are sufficient
to justify a conclusion that evidence of the specified crime,
or the object of the search, is probably in a particular
place. Davis, 27 S.W.3d at 667; Gonzales v.
State, 481 S.W.3d 300, 306 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2015,
no pet.). To satisfy this standard, there must exist at least
a fair probability or substantial chance that evidence of a
specific crime will be found in the place, person or thing to
be searched. Rodriguez v. State, 232 S.W.3d 55,
60-61 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007); Gonzales, 481 S.W.3d
at 306. While only the four corners of the affidavit may be
examined to determine whether probable cause exists,
reasonable inferences may be drawn from the affidavit, and it
must be interpreted in a commonsense and realistic manner.
Gonzales, 481 S.W.3d at 306.
reliability of the affiant and his sources of information are
part of the totality of the circumstances that the magistrate
should evaluate in making a probable-cause determination.
Johnson v. State, 803 S.W.2d 272, 289 (Tex. Crim.
App. 1990), cert. denied501 U.S. 1259,
overruled on other grounds by Heitman v. State, 815
S.W.2d 681 (Tex. Crim. App. 1991). However, "where a
crime victim, who is a private citizen, reports the
commission of a criminal offense, and whose only contact with
law enforcement authorities is a result of having been
victimized at the hands of another, the credibility and
reliability of the information is inherent." Nelson
v. State, 855 S.W.2d 26, 30 (Tex. App.-El Paso 1993, no
pet.). Therefore, in making a probable-cause determination, a
magistrate is entitled to rely on source information supplied
by a victim eyewitness without an independent showing ...