The man, Earl Valentine, began recording his confession on his cell phone from his car, stating that his ex-wife, Keisha Valentine, “deserved what she had coming” because she had lied to him and taken out a restraining order against him. Keisha Valentine survived the gunshot wound, but her teenage son, who was shot in the chest after confronting his father, did not. Her restraining order against her abusive ex-husband had recently expired.
It is not the first time evidence of a violent act has been broadcast on Facebook Live since its launch in April of this year.
In June, a man in France live-streamed from the bloody scene of double homicide in the home of a French police captain and his partner as he proclaimed his allegiance to the Islamic State terrorist group and urged viewers to go out and kill police officers. In the same month, a young man live-streaming on Facebook as he walked down the streets of Chicago unwittingly recorded his own fatal shooting death.
The most viral of the Facebook Live recordings was that of Philando Castile’s girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, who began live-streaming after a police traffic stop turned fatal when the officer shot and killed Castile inside the car. In the video that sparked outrage across the country after reaching 5 million people, Reynolds sits in the passenger’s seat beside her boyfriend whose shirt is soaked in blood from the wound with her four-year-old watching from the backseat. She speaks with the police officers calmly as Castile is fading beside her and the police officer seems to panic in response.
The video posted to Reynold’s Facebook was removed by Facebook moderators for a few hours because of the sensitive material, but later went back up after people protested. Videos on Facebook that are flagged for having disturbing material now have a disclaimer that prompts the viewer to respond whether or not they want to continue watching.
Along with other streaming platforms, like Twitter’s Periscope, Facebook Live has become a major player in the realm of real-time video sharing on social media, allowing users to record moments as they are happening. This new format of video streaming personal moments in real-time has thrust Facebook into the spotlight with grisly footage appearing multiple times since the launch.
While Facebook has appointed a team to monitor the live-streams, it is a difficult endeavor to censor violent or obscene content that users post when it is happening. As the Facebook Live moderators are seeing the videos and judging the content, viewers around the world can also watch, too, challenging them to establish rules for themselves as watchdogs and curators and also for the producers and consumers of these videos on Facebook.
Defense attorney Angie DiPietro commented, “Like police camera recordings, these live videos streamed by users add another layer of criminal evidence that can appear in court, incriminating those who opt to record their own confessions or the violent acts perpetrated by others. “
The sharing feature has also led to criminal charges as well. In April of this year a young woman in Ohio went to court with a slew of serious charges against her after recording the rape of her friend on Periscope, which she claimed that she videotaped for evidence. Her lawyer pleaded on her behalf that she was caught up in the moment and its intensity without considering the consequences of the video.
In the case of Earl Valentine, his Facebook Live confession was reposted to YouTube, and local law enforcement agencies in Norlina, North Carolina, just shy of the Virginia border, began searching for him. With the help of the FBI and U.S. Marshals, they found Valentine at a Days Inn in Virginia, where he shot and killed himself upon seeing that he was surrounded by police. He did not harm his in-laws as he had promised in his video.
Had he been taken in custody alive, Earl Valentine would have faced serious criminal charges including first-degree murder and attempted murder. Instead, his confession will continue to live on in the Internet, proof of the muddy waters of social media live-streaming and the new frontier it has created for criminal justice.