Crowdsourcing May Have Solved A 20-Year-Old Cold Case


Publish Date:
March 10, 2015
The Washington Post
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CLP Fellow Margaret Hagan weighs in on the pros and cons of crowdsourcing criminal investigations with The Washington Post’s Caitlin Dewey.

Margaretta Evans has not seen nor heard from her son Jason in almost 20 years. One day in early June 1995, the then-18 year old told his mother he was leaving home to follow the Grateful Dead on their summer tour. Jason never came home.

Evans, now 63, didn’t know what happened to her son until she saw his picture in January on a Facebook page devoted to cold cases, organized by amateur Internet sleuths.

“The one-thousand-foot, glaring red thing about crowdsourcing investigations is that it operates without the ethical rules or legal restraints that lawyers and law enforcement obey,” said Margaret Hagan, a lecturer at Stanford who studies ways to make the legal system more accessible to laypeople. “The crowd can be a powerful force for surfacing connections and details. But the mob effect terrifies me.”

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