How poor web security nearly lead to a jail term

The Julie Amero trial highlights the importance of security and making courts understand how the internet works.

The legal case

Sunbelt made some calls, pushing for top legal representation. They ended up with one of the top lawyers in Connecticut, William Dow, who was general counsel for the governor.

"He was a fun guy. I loved Willy Dow. He was a classic gunslinger. A guy that you would really want representing you," says Eckelberry.

Dow made an unusual motion to get a new trial based on the fact that new evidence had been found. Such a motion had been used in a recent rape case where new DNA evidence lead to a defendant being found not guilty.

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Sunbelt got a copy of the hard drive and had experts look at it, but without the firewall logs they weren't able to match anything up. As well, the time stamps on the computer were also not accurate. Eckelberry says: "The time clock on the computer was wrong. Significantly wrong. So we had a very hard time matching up times."

Ultimately, the experts went through piece by piece everything that had been done wrong. This turned up something which suggested to Eckelberry that they had a chance of winning the case.

He says: "One of the things that happen when you click on an internet link is it turns red. From the transcript figured out that they had showed an image on a screen of a sex advertisement, with one link in red.

"The prosecution goes to the prosecution witness [Police Detective] Mark Lounsbury and says it's red, does that mean she clicked on it?' He goes yes, links turn red when you click on them'."

Eckelberry and his team looked at this, and knew that this wasn't always true. But the real breakthrough came when the group looked at the HTML code behind the ad.

Eckelberry explains: "One of the guys pulled up the page and said oh my god!' check out what this says #F00000 if you've ever done HTML editing, that is the colour red."

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He exclaims: "The ad! The frickin ad had red text in it! The detective had never looked at the HTML source!"

What was even funnier or sadder, depending on how you look at it was that somebody had also set the browser to show visited links in green.

Eckelberry says: "It was a Perry Mason moment. I wish I was in the courtroom at that moment because I really would have nailed that guy."

Exonerating Julie Amero

From that moment on the expert team kept finding more information that could exonerate Amero. Still, Eckelberry had sympathy for Detective Lounsbury: "He only had five days to prepare. The defence only had five days to prepare."

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